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The Best and the Worst of the Week


Valerie Martin,
a New Orleans native, has won the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Property. The British honor, awarded to the best English-language novel by a female writer, is in its eighth year and comes with a prize of 30,000 pounds (nearly $50,000). Martin, whose other works include the novel Mary Reilly, bested novelists Donna Tartt and Zadie Smith for the prize.

Mayor's Arts Awards 2003 winners
included the Rev. Lois Dejean, a gospel choir director; jazz musician Kermit Ruffins; French Quarter Festivals Inc.; Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center; Jackson Square artist and activist Lee Tucker; folk artists Lorraine Gendron; and jewelry designer Mignon Faget (who designed the 2003 awards distributed to the winners). Hibernia National Bank also was honored for its corporate support of New Orleans-area arts projects.

Louisiana environmental regulators
have failed to keep mercury emissions in the state from rising to twice the federally accepted levels. A recent National Wildlife Federation report lists Louisiana as second among 11 states with dangerous levels of mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause birth defects and other health risks particularly in children. Louisiana's waterways are now under 29 mercury advisories.

Charter school overseers
in Louisiana don't give the state's 17 charter schools what they need to succeed, says a report released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The study calls Louisiana's charter school system unhealthy, saying the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education handles applications "in a very political manner." The study adds that public school boards generally give too little time to charter schools -- or view them as competitors.

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