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August 29, 2006

City Strobe

Is the NBA really dead here?Last week’s joint meeting of the U of L Board of Trustees and Athletics Board was so scripted and predictable, as was a concurrent meeting of the Louisville Arena Authority, that it only proved one thing: One didn’t have to go to the State Fair to see a dog-and-pony show.In fact, it inspired some idle daydreaming that led to this startling thought: Is the final piece of the arena puzzle going to be an NBA team in Louisville?If built as planned, the new arena will meet the NBA standard for bells and whistles. It will be state-of-the-art. That much, we know. We also know that U of L will have first priority in scheduling from Oct. 1 through the Final Four, in addition to getting various other sweetheart deals in terms of revenue.But what if a huge locally based corporation — the usual suspects are Yum! Brands and E.ON U.S., parent of LG&E — were to buy an NBA franchise and agree to be the secondary tenant?It’s no secret that the last time there was an NBA movement in town, Yum! was going to help build the arena and call it “The Bucket,” mainly to help it sell fried chicken in the burgeoning Asia market, where the NBA is hugely popular. It’s also no secret that E.ON U.S., already the world’s leading energy provider, would like to expand its Kentucky base throughout the United States and its international operation into Asia.The global TV exposure would make owning an NBA team cheap at that price for either corporation. And now that it has gotten what it wants from the Arena Authority, U of L would have no reason to fight the NBA. Finally, the NBA would solve the Authority’s problem of how to filling a minimum of 110 dates.Crazy? Well, you know what they say about an idle mind. —Billy ReedSupply and demandAfter working tirelessly to help George Bush make sure it will be full for years to come, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Anne Northup announced last week that a new Louisville veterans hospital is on a fast track. The hospital could open within five years in downtown Louisville’s “Brook Street Live!” Hospital-and-Good-Time-Emporium complex. The proposed hospital will have 135 to 150 beds and will cost $400 million, assuming LG&E doesn’t need any substations moved at taxpayer expense. The new hospital will replace the VA Medical Center on Zorn Avenue, long reviled for its easy access and convenient parking.The election-year promise to open a new VA hospital within five years comes two years after Northup’s 2004 promise to open a new VA hospital within five years, a promise that coincidentally also came during an election year. Thanks in part to Northup, Louisville is one of five cities — the others are Pittsburgh, Orlando, Denver and Las Vegas — getting new VA hospitals, now that bringing home wounded, maimed, poisoned and traumatized military troops is once again a growth industry, thanks in part to Northup. —Jim WelpIf at first you don’t succeed, there’s Plan BThe Food and Drug Administration finally let its hair down, sipped a glass of white wine and flapped its eyelids at reality last week, announcing that Plan B — the “morning-after pill,” reviled by religious types who think overpopulation, diminishing natural resources, an evaporating fresh water supply and starvation of biblical proportions are all just part of God’s plan to protect potential future offspring — can now be purchased over-the-counter, as long as you’re old enough to be in the Army.The decision means FDA scientists, who work with empirical evidence and wanted this a while ago, trumped Bush administration-appointed zealots, who deal in fear and religion.But it’s not expansive enough, some say: Pharmacies still aren’t required to carry Plan B, and those under 18 still need a prescription. “Considering Kentucky’s track record of pharmacists refusing to fill a prescription for Plan B (in the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project survey from last year, 47 percent of pharmacies that did not have Plan B in stock refused to fill the prescription), we still have a lot of work to do,” said Amanda Kreps-Long, RFP director. —Stephen GeorgePutting the flag in conflagrationFreedom haters and constitution scholars alike know that America is the shiznit when it comes to flag-burning. Heck, here at LEO, we like to use a flaming flag now and then to light our blame-America-first Cuban stogies. But burning two flags? That’s just piling on. And burning two flags in a 7th grade social studies classroom is, like, totally going 1980s Tehran. And yet, that’s just what Stuart Middle School teacher Dan Holden did last week, earning editorial tsk tsks from everybody from Fox News to Al-Jazeera to Flammable Fabrics Weekly.Holden, who was “temporarily reassigned to non-classroom duties” pending an investigation, told administrators he was trying to engage students in a freedom-of-speech lesson (presumably covering both the flag-burning and yelling-“fire”-in-a-crowded-building lessons all in one fell swoop). After burning the flags, Holden asked students to write an opinion paper about it and to discuss it with their parents.The flag-burning brouhaha is the latest in a string of controversial behavior by JCPS teachers. In June a Valley High School teacher was fired for calling a student “nigga,” and last year a teacher at Male High School was fired after a series of bizarre incidents demeaning students. The distractions come at a challenging time for Jefferson County Public Schools, as the district prepares to defend its desegregation policy before an arch-conservative U.S. Supreme Court, and teachers struggle with how to explain to perplexed students that their governor is not under indictment and that Pluto is not really a planet. —Jim WelpStop wasting time and money: citystrobe@leoweekly.com