Archive for June, 2009

Doctor’s orders

Boustany: Focus on your patients
*published June 30, 2009

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS
At a Monday night commencement at the Lake Charles Country Club, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, RLafayette, encouraged graduating medical residents to focus on the doctor-patient relationship.

“Patients must be able to develop and openly communicate with their doctor,” Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon, said. “That relationship is how preventable diseases like diabetes and hypertension can be controlled.”

Boustany said the better you know your patients, the easier it is to follow up and make sure they are following health recommendations.

Of the eight graduates of the LSU Family Medicine Residency Program, seven will remain in Louisiana. The LSU Health Science Centers focus on rural health.

Jeffrey Combetta, the chief resident, said he plans to stay in family medicine because he found it rewarding during his residency.

“You really get to know the people you are working with, and everyone knows your name,” Combetta said. He will work in Winnsboro.

Pearre Davenport said he originally planned to be a surgeon.

“I came here because of the good things I heard from other friends who went through the program,” Davenport said. “But I fell in love with the people and the area and it grew on me.”

Davenport, a San Diego native, will work in DeRidder.

Mayor Randy Roach talked about how the residency program has helped the area.

“Our area leads the state in uncompensated care,” he said. “So the residents really help improve the quality of health care in this area.”

“LSU has begun offering free tuition to students who agree to practice in rural areas,” Boustany said. “I believe that will help our state begin to improve the quality of primary care.”

The money needed for the residency training program at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital was restored in the state’s budget last Thursday.

The $500,000 needed for the program was among the projects outlined in House Bill 881, a supplemental spending bill.

Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, told the American Press that the $500,000 will be recurring in the budget.

Boustany ended his speech by encouraging the doctors to stay grounded and take time to be with family and friends.

“I encourage you to become involved in your communities,” Boustany said. “To truly understand your patients and the illnesses you will be asked to treat, you must venture outside the office.”

article link: http://bit.ly/pDCyS

June 30, 2009 at 1:54 am

Wild Art: Beauregard Watermelon Festival

*published June 28, 2009

Jamie Fischer of Stillwater, Minn., gives an axthrowing demonstration during the Watermelon Festival Saturday in DeRidder. Fischer was in town with cousin and fellow lumberjack, Tyler Fischer of Hudson, Wis. To view a video of the festival visit www.americanpress.com

Jamie Fischer of Stillwater, Minn., gives an axthrowing demonstration during the Watermelon Festival Saturday in DeRidder. Fischer was in town with cousin and fellow lumberjack, Tyler Fischer of Hudson, Wis. To view a video of the festival visit http://www.americanpress.com

Achillices Hanna, 4, and his father Matt of DeRidder come down the super slide at the Watermelon Festival Saturday in DeRidder. To view a video of the festival visit www.americanpress.com

Achillices Hanna, 4, and his father Matt of DeRidder come down the super slide at the Watermelon Festival Saturday in DeRidder. To view a video of the festival visit http://www.americanpress.com

Scenes from the 2009 Watermelon Festival from Vanessa Deggins on Vimeo.

ax article link: http://bit.ly/1aBEUC
slide article link: http://bit.ly/axpfP
video link: http://bit.ly/WHLoX

June 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Life Cover: The write stuff

Brian Mattison spends his free time making handmade pens
*published June 28, 2009

STORY, PHOTOS & VIDEO BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS
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Five years ago, Brian Mattison thought he needed a new hobby. He ended up getting a little more than that.

Just for kicks, he decided to attend a pen-turning class in Texas.

“I always like working with my hands and when I started putting things on the lathe, everything came naturally,” Mattison said.

It turned out, he also made pretty good money too.

Most of his pens have 24-karat gold pieces and are made out of exotic woods from places like Australia, Africa and southeast Asia.
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Mattison and his son built his spacious shop in his backyard after Hurricane Rita. Mattison said when he retires, he plans to try and do a few big trade shows each year.

The pen starts as two small rectangles of wood. He drills a hole in the center and puts it on a lathe.
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This is the longest part of the process, which takes a minimum of an hour.

The two pieces are shaped and sometimes, Mattison adds grooves or different types of designs.

Mattison assembles the pen with a press.

Mattison assembles the pen with a press.

“Sometimes I dye the wood or use naturally colored wood,” such as purpleheart wood from North Africa.”

Mattison, then sands the pen with four different grits of sandpaper to smooth out any bumps he missed.

The finished product

The finished product

“One of the neat things about these woods is they change color as you turn down toward the heart of the wood,” Mattison said.

Now Mattison applies a finish such as a lacquer or cellulose sealer, which soaks into the wood.

And finally his secret weapon — super glue.

“It creates a nice shine and hard cover on the pen,” Mattison said. “When you are constantly using the pen, the wood starts to dry out.”

The pen parts are assembled with a press machine and have refillable cartridges.

Making handmade pens from Vanessa Deggins on Vimeo.

Mattison reads magazines and Web sites to find out what types of pens people are making and the types of materials they are using.

He also makes wine bottle stoppers and letter openers and plans to start making duck and goose callers.

article link:http://bit.ly/p2jtb
video link: http://bit.ly/1NVuMq

June 28, 2009 at 2:08 am

Woman guilty of Rita-related fraud charges

*published June 25, 2009

Anita Belaire pleaded guilty to theft of public money for filing a false application with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A federal indictment says that after Hurricane Rita, Belaire falsely submitted an application to The Road Home disaster relief program and received $55,500.

The application requires people to list their primary residence and detail the extent of its damages.

Belaire listed a home that she owned but that had been condemned since before the 2005 storm.

She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.

article link: http://bit.ly/90ZSW

June 25, 2009 at 3:42 am

Suspect in shooting pastor at local church

*published June 24, 2009

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Barry Weldon Thomas is taken into custody following Monday’s shooting in Moss Bluff.  BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Barry Weldon Thomas is taken into custody following Monday’s shooting in Moss Bluff. BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS


A Lake Charles man arrested in connection with a Monday shooting has a lengthy criminal history and is a pastor at a local church, authorities said.

Barry Weldon Thomas, 49, was charged with two counts of illegal use of a weapon and one count of illegal carrying of a weapon. He was released Monday evening on $10,500 bond, according to parish jail records.

Authorities said Thomas is the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church on Fifth Avenue. According to clerk of court records — where at least one entry includes the abbreviation “Rev.” — his criminal history dates from 1996 and includes charges of animal cruelty, theft over $500 and drug possession.

At about 1 p.m. Monday, deputies responded to a shooting at 470 W. Telephone Road in Moss Bluff, authorities said. There they reportedly found Thomas lying on the ground in the front yard with a semiautomatic pistol pointed toward the mobile home.

Thomas was arrested, and two victims — Craig Thomas and Albert Sweet — were taken to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital to be treated for injuries to the neck, chest and leg, authorities said.

“The two victims are still in the hospital, but detectives don’t think their injuries are life-threatening,” said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kim Myers.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso said detectives spent the rest of the day interviewing witnesses.

“We determined that there were eight people in the house, including Thomas,” Mancuso said. “We talked to all but one person, and they, including Thomas, admitted they had been smoking crack cocaine.”

He said detectives are not sure what set Thomas off, but that he fired 14 shots inside the home.

“In his and witnesses’ statements, he was described as acting very irrational and erratic,” Mancuso said.

He said none of the eight people lived in the mobile home, which is owned by Floyd Sweet, whom Mancuso said was working out of town.

article link: http://bit.ly/HwwGx

June 24, 2009 at 3:51 am

Two injured, one jailed in Moss Bluff shooting

*published June 23, 2009
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Calcasieu Parish detectives are investigating a shooting that reportedly sent two men to the hospital.

At about 1 p.m., deputies responding to a call found Barry W. Thomas, 49, of Lake Charles, lying in the front yard at 470 W. Telephone Road with a semi-automatic weapon pointed toward the residence, said Sheriff Tony Mancuso.

Thomas was arrested, and the extent of the two victims’ injuries will determine the charges filed against him, Mancuso said. The victims were taken to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and are believed to be in stable condition.

One man was shot in the neck and chest, and the other man was shot in the leg, Mancuso said. Their names have not been released because their relatives haven’t been notified yet, he said.

“So far, we believe Thomas was in the home with two other males, an argument took place and he opened fire,” Mancuso said.

None of the men reside at the mobile home, which is owned by Floyd Sweet, whom Mancuso said is working out of town. The home was rented to Sweet’s cousin, who moved there from Houston.

Nearby residents said they had not heard any disturbances from the residence and that the street is generally quiet.

“I saw a couple coming and going from there, but never heard any noise,” said Dee Barker, who lives about a half-block away.

Mancuso said a witness was taken to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning.

article link: http://bit.ly/61EI4

June 23, 2009 at 10:55 pm

DRY, HOT SUMMER: SW La. faces water watch

Drying soil stresses area agriculture
*published June 23, 2009
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Some folks are feeling the pain of the abnormally dry conditions that continue throughout the area.

“Most of the parish has not had rain for at least three weeks,” said Jerry Whatley, a county agent with the LSU AgCenter Extension Service.

Whatley’s main focus is on crops.

“What’s significant is that if we were having 60-degree weather,” the moisture shortage would not be as bad.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate has 82 percent of the state labeled as short or very short on soil moisture for the week that ended Sunday.

About three weeks ago, 83 percent of the state had adequate or surplus moisture.

Whatley said rice and sugarcane producers are seeing their costs go up as they pump more water from their irrigation wells.

He also suggested some homeowners shouldn’t focus on their yards as much as usual.

“I know most people want to maintain their lawns and gardens, but they don’t realize how much moisture that takes,” Whatley said.

According to the latest drought outlook from the National Weather Service, the area is considered abnormally dry, with the next step being a moderate drought.

“If we don’t get any rain in the next few weeks, we could be headed that way,” said Joe Rua, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Lake Charles office.

This week’s forecast has temperatures in the high 90s all week, with the first chance of moisture on Saturday — a 20 percent chance of rain.

Whatley said the AgCenter expects the scorching weather to persist for the next 60 days.

In the cattle industry, this drought is bringing on longterm negative effects, Whatley said.

“Without proper moisture, the quality of forage decreases,” Whatley said.

For nursing cows, this causes a decrease in milk production, making it harder for them to feed their calves. Pregnant cows use more of their body fat.

“So when they give birth, they are in a poorer condition and struggle to not only feed the newborn calves, but will also rebreed slower,” Whatley said. “All of this translates to lost money for the owners.”

Lake Charles water superintendent Russell Buckles said last week that the city was pumping higher volumes of water to deal with the increased use.

Buckles suggested residents water early in the morning or late in the day and not let water overrun into the street and drains.

Brady Miller beats the heat by jumping the cool water in Prien Lake Park on Monday. With dry conditions and high temperatures expected throughout the week, this and other area water parks should be popular spots for area residents.  BY KAREN WINK

Brady Miller beats the heat by jumping the cool water in Prien Lake Park on Monday. With dry conditions and high temperatures expected throughout the week, this and other area water parks should be popular spots for area residents. BY KAREN WINK

Last Thursday, the Lake Charles Fire Department suspended indefinitely all burn permits and burning in general in the Ward 3 fire district.

“We had been following the conditions and decided as a precaution to put this in place,” said Capt. Jeremy LeBlanc.

He said there had been some grass fires, but not an alarming number.

article link: http://bit.ly/3InZF7

June 23, 2009 at 4:02 am

Son gets to mourn father buried in France

*published June 21, 2009

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

EDWIN L. BLESSING During World War II

EDWIN L. BLESSING During World War II

When Edwin Ellis Blessing tells his story, he tells it slowly, pausing for two or three seconds between each sentence. Sometimes, he pauses midsentence.

He doesn’t do this because he is forgetful. He tells the story slowly because he is talking about his father.

When Blessing was 5, his father, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, died fighting with the U.S. Army’s 714th Tank Battalion in Germany in World War II.

Blessing grew up with a shadow of his father, and had only fleeting memories of him — like the time he was home on furlough or when he first left home to learn how to operate a Sherman tank.

Blessing, the oldest of three boys, learned about his father from photographs and through anecdotes told by his mother. “All my life, she spoke of him, and that’s the only way I could really know him,” Blessing said.

But the pictures and the stories and even his father’s medals and commemorative flag could only do so much.

Fast forward to March 2000. Blessing, retired from Citgo, was working as a security guard in an office building downtown.

As he tells this part of the story, Blessing still seems a little surprised at the whole situation.

One quiet Saturday, stock broker and former state Rep. Bob Jones entered the building. He had a French quickstudy book under his arm.

After a greeting, Blessing asked about the book, and Jones told him that he was brushing up on his French because his daughter lives in France and he planned to see her in July.

Blessing, always one to make conversation, told Jones his father was buried in France during World War II. Jones asked where, but Blessing said he wasn’t sure, that it happened 55 years ago.

Jones took down the basic information and said he would check up on it. A month or so later Jones told Blessing he had found the cemetery — Lorraine Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France — and asked if he would like him to go during his trip.

At this point in the story, Blessing pauses for longer than three seconds.

Near the end of July, Jones returned and gave Blessing a package of pictures.

There were photos of the sprawling cemetery — the largest U.S. military burial ground in Europe — and of his father’s grave, with a wreath Jones had ordered for it.

“I must have looked through those pictures 40 times,” Blessing said.

A week later, Jones told Blessing that he had bought some stock and that if it went up to $50 a share, he would send Blessing and his wife, Peggy, to France.

Edwin Ellis Blessing places flowers at the grave of his father, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, at Lorraine Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France. The senior Blessing died fighting with the U.S. Army during World War II. Photos proved by Ed Blessing

Edwin Ellis Blessing places flowers at the grave of his father, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, at Lorraine Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France. The senior Blessing died fighting with the U.S. Army during World War II. Photos proved by Ed Blessing


Blessing protested, telling Jones he really didn’t have to do that. Jones said he wanted to.

In late August, the stock hit $50 a share and Jones asked Blessing when he wanted to leave for France.

Blessing picked September. After an 11-hour flight, Blessing and his wife spent the first day touring Paris.

Jones’ son-in-law’s brother, Benoit, then drove them the five hours to Saint-Avold to the cemetery.

As he tells the rest of the story, Ed’s voice is barely above a whisper, and he talks about everything in specific detail.

The walk from the visitor’s center to the grave was almost a quarter-mile. Blessing walked up behind the grave, so he could not tell it was his father’s grave at first.

Jones, who was in Australia attending the Olympics, had called and ordered another wreath.

When cemetery workers know someone is coming to visit a grave, they put black sand in the name on the marker to make it stand out more.

And when Blessing walked around and saw his father’s name, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, he stopped and stared and his knees felt weak.

He says he still can’t describe the feeling. But it’s safe to assume he gets it when he tells his story or when he looks at the photos.

“So this is where you’ve been my whole life,” he said aloud to the grave.

At this point in his story, Blessing relaxes, and his voice returns to its normal volume. The zen-like gaze he maintained during the telling is gone.

“We stayed there for two hours, just visiting, you know,” Blessing said. “And we went back the next day to visit the grave, and I said good-bye to him.”

article link: http://bit.ly/2OvWEm

June 21, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Center: La. gun death leader

Report blames weapon proliferation; police, trainers question conclusion
*published June 21, 2009
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

An analysis by the Violence Policy Center ranks Louisiana No. 1 in gun deaths, with 19.58 deaths per 100,000 residents — well above the national average of 10.32 per 100,000 residents.

The four states topping the list after Louisiana were Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi and Nevada, according to the study.

The nonprofit VPC used 2006 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics to determine their results, according to their press release.

It looked at states that have high gun ownership, along with what it categorized as weak gun laws.

In Louisiana — with a population of about 4.2 million — there were 831 gun-related deaths, which included 446 homicides and 331 suicides.

“More guns mean more gun death and injury. … It’s a simple equation,” VPC legislative director Kristen Rand states on the media release.

Law enforcers don’t necessarily agree.

“That’s like saying the more vehicles you buy, the more accidents you’re going to see,” said Lt. James Milner with the Lake Charles Police Department and the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.

The Project Safe Neighborhood program is a federally funded task force that uses computer-generated statistics to target areas with a high number of gun crimes.

Josh Sugarman, executive director of the VPC, cited the number of suicides, saying people are more likely to succeed in a suicide attempt when a gun is present. He said this data also came from the CDC.

Matthew Courtney, a firearms instructor in Lake Charles, takes issue with the VPC findings. He teaches a concealed-weapon permit course that is required by the state for those applying for a concealed-weapon permit.

He said, to his knowledge, there has only been one fatality involving a person with a concealed-weapon permit.

“This shows that the laws only affect those who follow them,” Courtney said.

The state-required nine hour class includes topics such as gun handling, shooting positions, child-access prevention — which Courtney said he spends a full hour on — and laws about the use of lethal force.

“Drugs are illegal, but high school kids buy them every day,” Courtney said.

A McNeese State University criminal justice professor blasted the VPC findings and its methods.

“VPC is an extremely biased anti-gun interest group. Their science is pretty questionable, and I would take anything they say with a strong grain of salt,” David Armstrong stated in an emailed statement for this story.

He stated that “gun death” for the VPC includes self-defense shootings and other “legal, good uses of firearms.”

“For example, if a rapist were to break into your house and attack you, and you shot and killed him, the VPC would consider that just the same as if a bad guy shot you while stealing your money, and so on.

“Not only is it vague, it is misleading to some extent,” Armstrong wrote.

The VPC defined strong gun laws as those that add significant state regulation in addition to federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous types of firearms, setting minimum safety standards and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm.

The definition of weak laws are those that add little or nothing to federal restrictions and have permissive concealed carry laws.

The five states cited with the lowest gun deaths and gun ownership, along with stronger gun laws, were Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.

article link: http://bit.ly/3w3Fz1

June 21, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Two men charged with sex crimes

*published June 17, 2009

A Westlake man has been charged with three counts of aggravated rape, crimes that authorities say happened over a period of more than two years.

Calcasieu detectives arrested Vedo L. Guillory, 36, 4321 Dutchess St., Monday as the result of a parent’s complaint.

According to authorities, a mother said her daughter, now a teenager, told her that when she was 8, Guillory forced her to perform oral sex on him.

This continued until she was 10 years old, at which time Guillory began having sexual intercourse with her, officials said. The incidents reportedly occurred between January 2003 and March 2009.

Judge Wilford Carter set Guillory’s bond at $150,000. The lead investigator is Sheriff’s Office Detective Stephen Irwin.

A Kenner man has been charged with online solicitation and indecent behavior with a juvenile by both the Kenner Police Department and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office.

William B. Powe Jr., 55, 4345 Arkansas Ave., was arrested by Calcasieu deputies on Monday after he bonded out in Kenner.

On around June 2, both departments’ vice divisions began online investigations, with officers posing as 14-year-old girls on the Internet.

Between June 2 and 8, Powe reportedly had sexually explicit conversations with the detectives and exposed his genital area via webcam.

Judge Kent Savoie set his bond at $30,000. The lead investigator is Sheriff’s Office Detective Stephen Irwin.

article link: http://bit.ly/hAMc8

June 17, 2009 at 8:16 pm

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