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City Reporter



Volunteers Needed

Methodist begins study of HIV vaccine.

By Janel Davis

Methodist Healthcare is one of two Mid-South sites chosen to host a five-year safety study that will examine the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine.

The study of the "safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity" of a three-dose vaccine will be under the direction of Methodist infectious-disease specialist Dr. Danny Lancaster. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Foundation is funding the project.

Lancaster says the study has two purposes: to test the safety and patient tolerance of the vaccine in three different doses and to determine what part of the immune system is stimulated by the vaccine.

This is the first time the vaccine will be used in people. Participants will receive three injections over a period of several months.

"The vaccines are not made directly from HIV and do not contain all the components needed to make HIV," says Lancaster. He also notes that the vaccine is not a preventative and people who engage in high-risk behavior can still contract HIV.

Participants will be tested and have follow-ups for five years to ensure that no adverse side effects develop.

"It is possible a subject could develop an antibody that will make it appear as though HIV infection has occurred," says Lancaster. "However, extensive tests can distinguish whether or not it is an actual infection or simply a reaction to the vaccine."

Approximately 90 subjects are needed for the initial phase of the study. Participants should be healthy, low-HIV-risk people, 18 to 50 years of age. Anyone interesting in taking part in the study should call 726-2268.

"Race or gender do not matter," says Lancaster. "But it would be great if African Americans participated. This is a group that is usually not represented in clinical trials."

Vanderbilt University is the other Mid-South site conducting the study.

Awards Day

SPJ salutes region's top journalists.

The Mid-South Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists presented its 2002 awards May 11th during a luncheon at the University of Memphis' Fogelman Executive Center. The staff of The Memphis Flyer earned a number of awards in the weekly/monthly division:

· First Place, Deadline Reporting -- Jackson Baker, "A Night To Remember: State Government Under Siege."

· First Place, Non-deadline Reporting -- Rebekah Gleaves, "Nobody's Children."

· First Place, Investigative Reporting -- Rebekah Gleaves, "The Perfect Storm."

· Second Place, Investigative Reporting -- Rebekah Gleaves, "Failure to Communicate."

· First Place, Feature Writing -- Rebekah Gleaves and Mary Cashiola, "The Last White Queen."

· Third Place, Feature Writing -- Dennis Freeland, "Will Success Spoil Brian Parker?"

The SPJ also honored Dennis Freeland with a special lifetime achievement certificate. Freeland, the former editor and sport columnist of the Flyer, died January 6, 2002, after suffering a stroke. The award was presented "in grateful appreciation to a dedicated journalist."

Other publications produced by Contemporary Media, publisher of the Flyer, also garnered awards:

· First Place, Feature Photography -- Vern Evans, Memphis magazine, "Those Who Would Be the King."

· Second Place, Feature Writing -- Marilyn Sadler, Memphis magazine, "Families Divided."

· Third Place, Non-deadline Reporting -- Leigh Ann Roman, Memphis Parent, "Is Your House Armed and Dangerous?" · Third Place, Column/Commentary --Vance Lauderdale, Memphis magazine (various columns).

· Honorable Mention, Feature Writing -- Michael Finger, Memphis magazine, "Life Study: Ted Rust."

The Dan Henderson Best of Show honors went to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, the Memphis Business Journal, and KATV in Little Rock. Other multiple-award-winners included The Commercial Appeal, the Tri-State Defender, WKNO radio, and WMDN-TV in Meridian, Mississippi.

Transition Period

Despite water leaks, jail is making progress.

By Mary Cashiola

Barring a little water and a few computer glitches, things are going pretty well at the Shelby County Jail, says a county administrator.

Criminal justice coordinator Bill Powell says the switch to direct supervision in the jail has gone better than expected, eliciting positive comments from both the staff and the inmates. The switch began on the fifth and sixth floors last fall, and the more violent third floor will be converted by the end of the month. Officials are still working on a plan that will tie information from the metro gang unit on the street to people inside the jail.

But after each heavy rainfall, officials notice a little snag.

"There's a problem with water seepage in the new annex," says Powell. "Some of the building is still accumulating water."

The annex was supposed to open June 2nd, but Powell says the opening is now slated for July 14th. Officials are still trying to determine if the leak is coming from a pipe somewhere or if it is excess groundwater seeping in.

"If it's groundwater seeping in, we need to figure out what to do to keep that room dry," says Powell. "It's supposed to house some computer equipment. Obviously you don't want that underwater."

Cameras sent through the lines recently found a few spots that might be the problem. Currently, building engineers are looking at two solutions. One is increasing the amount of waterproofing material to keep the water from seeping between rooms and keep it away from the computer equipment. The other is to form a sort of well to give any excess groundwater a place to go. Both of the corrective measures can be made by the opening day.

The annex -- price-tagged around $26 million -- is supposed to speed the intake and classification process. As part of a 1996 federal court order, the county spent $150,000 on new computer equipment and $170,000 for a new classification system.

Says Powell: "Worst comes to worst, we'll put that equipment in a different room, but we have to have that equipment up and running before we can open the annex."

The jail also implemented new inmate classification software on May 1st that should more effectively separate violent offenders from non-violent offenders.

"There are hitches here and there, but things are going pretty well," says Powell.

Much A-Doo About Nothing?

Downtown carriage drivers say their, uh, stuff doesn't stink.

By Rebekah Gleaves

Lately, talk downtown has centered around the bathroom habits of horses.

Citing complaints from downtown restaurant owners and patrons, the Memphis City Council voted last week to pass an ordinance prohibiting horse-drawn carriages from lingering within 100 feet of eateries. According to city council chairman Rickey Peete, the ordinance originally called for a restriction of 200 feet but was amended in favor of the carriage operators.

But carriage owners and operators say that the new ordinance will hurt their business.

"There's a whole bunch of little dictators down at City Hall," says David Sydnor, owner of the American Chariot carriage company. "I didn't know they could do something like this in America. If they want to go ahead with this, we're going to sue them."

But Peete, who is also president of the Beale Street Merchants Association, says this is an issue of hygiene, not just business.

"A restaurant ought to be able to tell you if they want you to park your funky-ass horse in front of their restaurant or not," says Peete. "These carriage owners want it to be like Burger King; they want to have it their way. They want it to stay the same, but it's not going to stay the same. If a restaurant wants to smell that stuff, they can petition City Hall for a variance. If all the restaurants say they want the carriages, we'll change the ordinance."

Sensitive to what he viewed as an attack on his horses, Sydnor was at City Hall last week to administer what he termed the "The Rickey Peete Challenge." Passersby were offered a free carriage ride if they could determine which of the 10 flower boxes in Sydnor's carriage was filled with manure. The other nine were filled with potting soil. According to Sydnor, the only council member to accept the challenge was Tajuan Stout Mitchell -- and she failed.

"Every carriage driver out there carries Lysol, antibacterial soap, and Febreeze," says Sydnor. "Our horses wear diaper bags and we Febreeze the manure in the bags. I'd be willing to bet that our manure smells better than that of anyone at City Hall. We Febreeze ours."

Peete says the ordinance is necessary and claims it will not affect customers at places like The Peabody, since it applies only if the principal business is a restaurant. Sydnor, however, raises a question not yet addressed by the council.

"What if one restaurant wants carriages to come by but the one next to it doesn't? How close can we come then?" asks Sydnor. "A horse is like a big, warm sky giving you a lick. People like to see the horses and to pet them. They make people smile. They're like hugs and having them around is a nice thing for everybody."

But Peete and the other council members apparently aren't interested in equine hugs and licks. For them, all the controversy surrounding the carriage ordinance is baffling.

"Nobody is asking these carriages not to drop off or pick up people. That's misinformation," says Peete. "Their major concerns have all been addressed. It's much ado about nothing."

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