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Ellen DeGeneres gets her fish wish, is in talks to join 'Finding Nemo 2'

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 6:57 AM     Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 7:04 AM

Ellen DeGeneres is doing swimmingly -- and in more ways than one. First came news this week that the New Orleans-born comedian and talk-show host will get her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sept. 4. Then, after that, her syndicated show marks its 10th anniversary on Sept. 8. And now comes news via The Hollywood Reporter that DeGeneres is in talks to join the cast of the sequel to Pixar's "Finding Nemo," an animated project she's long said she'd like to see become a reality.

Ellen DegeneresEllen DeGeneres accepts the award for favorite daytime TV host for "The Ellen Degeneres Show" during the People's Choice Awards on in January 2012. The New Orleans-born comedian and talk-show host is in talks to join the cast of Pixar's planned "Finding Nemo" sequel.

Oscar-winning "Finding Nemo" director Andrew Stanton - who also directed "Wall*E" and this year's live-action "John Carter" -- is already on board to helm the undersea adventure. No plot details have emerged, although it's been reported that the script is being written by Victoria Strouse ("The Apostles of Infinite Love").

DeGeneres would return to voice the comic-relief character of Dory, a blue fish with short-term memory loss - the same character she voiced in the 2003 original film, about a clownfish who must find his son and bring him home after the younger fish is lost in the Great Barrier Reef.

"Nemo" fans eager to see what's in store should prepare for a wait; the "Finding Nemo" sequel is early in development and isn't due in theaters for another four years. Until then, though, they can check out the new 3-D update of the 2003 film, which Disney/Pixar is scheduled to release into theaters Sept. 14.

 
 

7 streets in New Orleans working to revitalize neighborhoods are part of UNO student's research

Published: Sunday, August 19, 2012, 8:00 AM
 
 
 
 
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A University of New Orleans graduate student has conducted research that examines the metro area's revitalization corridors, or corridors that are working to attract businesses and redo their image. Alena Anderson's report focused on seven streets, including Freret Street and Oak Street, and the groups responsible for their development.

oak-street-revitalization.jpgView full sizeChris Granger, Times-Picayune archive 'There's a lot of interest about these hot spots of commercial growth,' UNO student research Alena Anderson said about New Orleans neighborhoods, including Oak Street, above.

All of the revitalization corridors Anderson researched used start-up funds from Louisiana's Main Street program, which supports revitalization efforts. But the short-term nature of the funds -- the Main Street funding lasts for only five years -- means that many of these groups will soon run out of funds.

"This is not sustainable," she said. "Organizations have to rely on grants, sponsorships to make it last longer than five years."

Anderson's report makes the case that a government representative should keep track of these organizations and help them find other methods of funding.Her research focused on seven streets or neighborhoods. They are: North Rampart Street, St. Claude Avenue, Broad Street, O.C. Haley Boulevard, Old Algiers, Oak Street and Freret Street.

In her research, Anderson found that the organizations in each neighborhood were very different. "All of them are in designated cultural areas of the city," Anderson said. "They're all considered culturally significant neighborhoods."

But each group uses different methods to bring more people to the street. Some use farmers markets, others focus on putting on festivals. "If you have some sort of party, people will come and support it," she said.

freret-holiday-market-2010.jpgView full sizeJohn McCusker, Times-Picayune archiveIn December 2010, the Freret Holiday Market, dubbed Freretstivus, was held, featuring 150 vendors and two stages of music.

On some of the corridors, historic tax credits are being used to renovate buildings to increase the walkability of an area and its perceived sense of safety, she added. Some also emphasize music and art to help make them a place people want to be.

"These corridors have become nodes of social engagement," Anderson said. "There's a lot of interest about these hot spots of commercial growth."

The city takes a leadership role in helping and facilitating these programs. Anderson believes that the organizations responsible for revitalizing the streets need to be brought together to discuss strategies.

"Instead of competing for resources, you should bring them together," she said. "It will help facilitate the redevelopment. Include them in the discussion, get an insight into their needs."

Michelle Thompson, an assistant professor at UNO, helped Anderson with her research. She agreed that a main problem for these organizations is lack of communication. But she believes Anderson's report can help the community and local groups understand what is happening.

"This is a way to start a conversation," Thompson said. "There's not enough neighborhood engagement. It won't take one person, one organization, to make this happen."

She said the research into these revitalization corridors will continue in the fall, looking at economic impact, crime and blight, and property evaluations.

Anderson has handed out her reports to several city departments and community organization to help make people aware of the work in the corridors. She believes the report provides an understanding of the players, the issues and their strategies. Other areas of the city can be redeveloped using similar strategies and become sources for economic development.

"There is growth in New Orleans and the region," Anderson said. "The economy is bouncing back faster than in other places. There's a lot of potential for growth. This could really benefit the city."

 
 

Keife & Co. wine and spirit shop opens near Lee Circle

Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 8:30 AM     Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 9:05 AM

John Keife, who recently opened the wine and liquor store Keife & Co., aims to have the best spirit selection in New Orleans. He figures that would also mean his CBD shop would have the best spirit selection in Louisiana and probably even the entire South.

12-Keife & Co web res.jpegCourtesy of Keife and Co.New wine and spirit shop Keife & Co. opened near Lee Circle.

The store opened August 1 and Keife is still building up the inventory in the sleek space with polished concrete floors and crystal chandeliers. Already, though, the impressive selection of obscure amaros, liqueurs and other cocktail ingredients would make any cocktail geek wish they had enough cash to buy one of every bottle on the shelves.

"We love to find the hard to find," Keife said.

Eventually the store will stock 300 different spirits and 500 wines. "All the wines are hand chosen by us," Keife said, "typically small producers." A deli case in the center will hold roughly 30 cheeses and a dozen cured meats all picked to complement the wines.

Keife spent four years managing the wine and spirits selection at Rouses on Tchoupitoulas Street. Before than, he worked at Marcello's Wine Market in Baton Rouge. The resume of Jim Yonkus, the other owner of Keife & Co., includes a stint at Martin Wine Cellar and at a cheese shop in Manhattan.

Keife picked the space, just lakeside of the Lee Circle, because he thought downtown needed more wine shops. He also liked the central location.

"We're 15 minutes from anywhere in the city," Keife said.

Keife & Co. is open Tue.â??Sat. from 10â??8 p.m. Each Thursday, from 5â??7 p.m., there will be informal wine tastings.

Keife & Co., 801 Howard Ave., 504.523.7272

Todd A. Price can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Read more about the bar scene at nola.com/drink or nola.com/bar-guide. Follow him at twitter.com/toddapricetp.

Related topics: john keife, keife & co., spirits, wine
 

Sinkhole relief well permit is approved by state

Published: Monday, August 13, 2012, 8:30 PM

BATON ROUGE — The state Department of Natural Resources said Monday it has approved a drilling permit for a relief well in Assumption Parish, hoping the new well will shed some light on the source of a massive sinkhole that has transformed 300 feet of swamp into muck. DNR Secretary Stephen Chustz said Houston-based Texas Brine Co. will drill into an abandoned brine cavern that the company owns in the Napoleonville salt dome in an effort to determine possible structural instability, pressures, or natural gas inside.

bayou-corne-sinkhole.jpgView full sizeLouisiana Department of Natural ResourcesScientists have speculated that the 372-foot-wide and 422-foot-deep sinkhole might be related to structural problems within a brine cavern owned by United Brine Services, a subsidiary of Texas Brine Co.

The company is still responsible for regular reports on the progress of drilling and the methods it will use to determine the status of the cavern when they reach it, Chustz said.

"We will hold them to that requirement and ensure that we maintain transparency in these operations for the public throughout," Chustz said in a statement.

Scientists believe the cavern may be the cause of the sinkhole, which swallowed up an acre of bald cypress trees 10 days ago and has since grown into a slurry area 372 feet wide and 422 feet deep.

Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch said company officials are in the process of preparing the site for a drilling rig and that components could be arriving as early as Wednesday.

"We are not going to bring a drilling rig in close proximity to the edge of the sinkhole...What we intend to do is set up several hundred feet away and drill directionally into the roof of the cavern. We're aware of the risks," Mark Cartwright, president of United Brine Services, a subsidiary of Texas Brine Co., said Friday at a press conference in Gonzales.

Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, said the process is finally moving in the right direction. He said it's time the state considers legislation to get full disclosure to people on whether there are pipelines, abandoned wells or salt caverns beneath their homes.

"I dare say 99 percent of people who are living above a system like this have no idea what they're living above. We have to be more transparent about what's underground," Harrison said.

Conservation Commissioner Jim Welsh ordered the company to drill the well Thursday. Texas Brine has also been directed to set up a relief fund for residents of 150 homes who were forced to evacuate after Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in Assumption Parish.

Officials say the original permit that the company filed for the brine cavern requires that it assist residents in the event that a sinkhole is discovered on company-owned property. Texas Brine has agreed to make a "significant contribution" to a fund, but details on how the fund will be managed and distributed have not been figure out yet, Cranch said.

"We're collaborating with the parish president and DNR and others to figure out the best way to manage funds. The process now is just to figure out how to set up the fund and what procedure will be used to assist these residents who are in the evacuation zone," Cranch said.

Bayou Corne resident Vickie Guilbeaux said that a relief fund isn't going to be enough for most people. Guilbeaux evacuated her home and has been staying in property she owns in Port Allen. Even if everything goes according to plan with the relief well, she said, she'd be too afraid to return.

"I will be scared every night and every day if I go back to my home. I don't feel safe at all anymore," she said.

She believes the relief fund won't be enough for many of the residents who have decided not to evacuate.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, estimates that around 350 people, or half of those who were required to evacuate, have actually vacated their homes.

"We've worked all our lives, working hard, to put our dream homes together that we wanted to have when we retired. Then our dreams are going down like the hole in the swamp," Guilbeaux said.

By Sheila V Kumar, Associated Press

 

Entrepreneurs tackle childhood obesity with 10,000 healthy lunches a day

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 5:19 AM

According to data from Propeller: A Force for Innovation, 36 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds are overweight, with low-income and minority children being affected the most. They, along with partners Revolution Foods and KIPP New Orleans Schools, have launched School Food Authority (SFA) in an effort to fight childhood obesity in the area and, hopefully, create a model that can be implemented beyond the region. 

propeller.jpg

The program, which is led by Propeller social entrepreneur James Graham, will be delivering more than 10,000 healthy school lunches per day to students at 28 New Orleans and Baton Rouge public schools beginning this school year.

The lunches comply with a set of healthy food standards set by Popeller, meaning that none of the items is fried, and contains no high-fructose corn syrup, canned fruits or vegetables, or nitrates or hormones in meat. Everything is prepared from scratch and contains a fresh fruit and vegetable with each meal. In addition, 5 percent of the food must be locally procured. The 28 participating charter schools and the four participating food vendors have contractually committed to conform to these standards.

Healthy food vendor Revolution Foods was recruited to New Orleans, and Propeller provided the seed funding necessary to launch the KIPP New Orleans Schools healthy lunch initiative. Propeller is providing more than $190,000 in grant funding for schools to transition to a healthy food vendor through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, and Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

“One of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's (WKKF) core beliefs is that all people – particularly vulnerable children – deserve access to good food,” said William Buster, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a key supporter of Propeller. “Schools are public tables from which 30 million children eat up to two-thirds of their meals. Improving the nutritional quality of the food we serve our children at school directly impacts their health and well-being and that’s why we are supporting this very important work.”

The partner vendors include Chartwells, Liberty’s Kitchen, Revolution Foods, and Sodexo, who have all committed to complying with the standards set by Propeller. In addition, Propeller has partnered with The Louisiana Public Health Institute’s (LPHI) School Health Connection program and the Tulane Prevention Research Center in order to monitor food quality, student participation, and student behaviors and attitudes in the program.

While the program is focused on New Orleans and Baton Rouge area school children, the initiative is multi-fold, benefitting local farmers as well.

“Our schools, students, and families told us they wanted a healthier, higher-quality school lunch, and we are thrilled that in our first year we will bring the healthy school lunch program to 20 percent of New Orleans public school students,” explained Andrea Chen, executive director at Propeller. “We have changed the school food contracting process to tackle Louisiana’s obesity epidemic as children from high-poverty backgrounds typically consume the majority of their calories at school. In addition, this is a significant economic opportunity for our local farmers since vendors are required to buy local as part of the Healthy Foods RFP, and it has previously been almost impossible for small farmers to crack the farm-to-school market.”

The initiative has been three years in the making with Propeller, Revolution Foods, and ley stakeholders throughout the region.  According to Revolution Foods CEO Kristin Richmond, the program has kicked off successfully. She added that the most encouraging feedback she has received came from Batiste teachers who said that students were feeling more full after lunch and more attentive in class since the program's inception.

Richmond adds, “Seeing positive student outcomes linked to our program is our most important goal in our work.”

Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups through her non-profit organization GenNOLA.

 
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