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Digital Politics
Unless you're a political hound, it may be difficult to ascertain the face behind the Louisiana Political News Service, an email newsletter and blog site that roasts and cheers certain elected officials. Although he claims it isn't a huge secret -- just try finding his name attached to -- the blogger is none other than Pat Bergeron, a well-known political operative in Baton Rouge. "Most people who know anything about politics know it's my blog," Bergeron says. More than 16,500 people receive the email newsletter, he says, and even more check out the Web site. While Bergeron bills the site as an "independent, nonpartisan blog," it does take a heavy-handed approach toward certain politicos -- particularly those running against candidates Bergeron gets paid to promote, like New Orleans mayoral hopeful Peggy Wilson and secretary of state bidder Mike Francis. Bergeron claims he is "not exactly attacking folks," just "putting real news stories on there and commenting on them." Those who have borne the brunt of his "stories" no doubt would argue otherwise. -- Alford

Treen: Free EWE
Former Republican Gov. David C. Treen says he will ask the White House to shorten the 10-year federal prison sentence of former Gov. Edwin Edwards now that his once-bitter rival has exhausted legal appeals of his federal racketeering conviction. "I don't think a (presidential) pardon is possible," Treen told Gambit Weekly, adding, "I'm going to ask the president for a commutation." Treen said Edwards should be released from prison because of his advancing years. "I am not excusing what he (Edwards) has done," Treen said. "I just think the sentence was too heavy at his age." Treen said he does not expect to talk with the president directly, though the two Republicans have known each other since the 1980s, when they both campaigned for Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush. Instead, Treen said, he will write Bush a letter on Edwards' behalf and seek help from powerful allies in the White House. "I am probably going to go through Andy Card, whom I know," Treen said of the White House chief of staff. "Either him or [political adviser] Karl Rove." Treen drew criticism from within the GOP last year when he denounced EWE's "extremely harsh" prison term and vowed to work for his release. Now that Edwards' legal appeals have run out, Treen said he will renew his efforts to win Edwards' freedom. "I haven't talked to him, directly," Treen said of Edwards, "but we have had correspondence, back and forth." Treen said Edwards sent a letter of condolences to him after Treen's wife died last March. Not long afterwards, Treen praised some of Edwards' achievements as governor. Edwards is at a federal minimum security camp in Oakdale, La., and is scheduled for release on July 6, 2011 -- about a month before his 83rd birthday. Elected as Louisiana's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Treen lost his re-election bid when Edwards defeated him to win a third term in 1983. -- Johnson

Pressing the Press
When a reporter last week asked Dave Treen for his age, the former governor said he was 77. When the reporter replied that he looked much younger, Treen pounced: "Will you write that?" An attorney and business consultant who resides in Mandeville, Treen said he now spends his time working on "community projects." He was in New Orleans last week to attend the annual meeting of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission. -- Johnson

Tag 'Em
It may cost you a few bucks to get into certain areas of Plaquemines Parish these days, especially the locales devastated by Katrina. The sheriff's office there has been charging a $10 "processing fee" to visitors and others for an identification badge. Two weeks ago, the state attorney general's office ruled that state law neither prohibits nor authorizes such a tactic and the sheriff's actions "do not yet appear to rise to the level of malfeasance in office." Col. Charles Guey of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office says the decision was made to keep an eye on looters and other troublemakers using the wasteland for cover. "This just gives us access control," he says. -- Alford

Hospital Hullabaloo
The state's public hospital system is facing a $183 million shortfall in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the deficiency is expected to trickle down to medical centers in Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge. Officials at LSU's Health Care Services Division, which oversees several public hospitals, say they need $870 million from the state budget for the next fiscal year to adequately provide services and maintain programs. But the governor's proposed $20.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 earmarks only $687 million for the hospitals. Marvin McGraw, director of communications for the LSU health-care division, says the shortfall could affect hospital operations in areas overburdened by the influx of hurricane evacuees. "Certainly there will be an impact on all of the hospitals," he says. The irony of the cuts is that the governor's proposed budget is based on a decline in New Orleans-area patients, while hospitals outside the hurricane region are dealing with more patients than ever. The public hospital system began the current fiscal year with a budget of $900 million -- before the hurricanes shut down the hospitals in New Orleans. Meanwhile, LSU has leased space in New Orleans to open a trauma center with in-patient beds and a medical-surgical hospital. Additionally, parts of University Hospital should be up and running by December. Officials say the budget projections could go up if more patients use New Orleans hospitals and the numbers remain high in outlying areas. -- Alford

Screenwriter Turns to Politics
Roger Wilson, a New Orleans native, actor and Hollywood screenwriter who is running for one of two at-large seats on the New Orleans City Council, has received endorsements from 25 local African-American ministers. Wilson's campaign says more ministerial endorsements are expected this week. Wilson, who is white, says that among the ministers is Rev. Byron Clay of Kenner and Rev. Clement Smith, pastor of Second Morning Star Bethesda Church in New Orleans. Wilson, 49, says he returned to his hometown about 10 days after Hurricane Katrina to help evacuees. Working with Rev. Clay and his contacts from 25 years in the entertainment industry, Wilson says he secured a convoy of relief trucks to deliver $500,000 in food and emergency supplies to needy residents. In the six months since Katrina, he claims to have raised $5.5 million in aid, including funds for the restoration of Second Morning Star Church. A political novice who is running as an independent, Wilson is not related to mayoral candidate Peggy Wilson. His screenwriting career includes work on the HBO television series Deadwood and on NYPD Blue. "I was going to write a movie (after Katrina)," Wilson told Gambit Weekly. Instead, he found a residence on Esplanade Avenue and qualified for council at-large after several ministers encouraged him to get involved politically. If elected, Wilson says he will help attract private investment to the city and fight for federal restoration of flooded homes and the coastal wetlands. "My motto is, 'There is no place like home,'" he says. -- Johnson

Disaster Bidding
Type "Hurricane Katrina" into the eBay search engine and you'll be presented with 556 items for sale. There's a dollar bill that survived the storm, complete with "water marks," going for a "Buy It Now" price of $2,900. There's also bottled floodwater going for a buck, a ceramic insulator found in a pile of debris that can be shipped for only $6 and even special keepsake Christmas ornaments for $3 a piece. Not to be outdone, Hurricane Rita lists 40 items, including a hammer that survived the chaos -- prompting one bid of $13.25, including shipping and handling. -- Alford

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