GOOD NEWS: JEREMY DESEL RETURNS TO TELEVISION!

WE’RE GLAD EVERYTHING WORKED OUT AND HE’S OKAY!

KHOU (Channel 11) reporter Jeremy Desel returns to the air tonight with a story about the future of NASA and the Johnson Space Center — vital stuff, no doubt, but hardly the taut, personal, dramatic sort of tale that has characterized his decade on Houston television.

Desel’s mere presence on the air tonight, though, is sufficiently dramatic in its own right.

At age 39, he is two months removed from open heart surgery to repair a defect that could have struck him down in the middle of the newsroom or, for that matter, in the middle of Galveston Island during Hurricane Ike.

“I look back now and see things that should have been red flags, things that I wrote off at the time to the fact that I had a baby at home,” he said. “What this has taught me is to listen to my body and to see my doctor at least once a year.”

Desel’s off-screen tale began with the sort of coincidence that normally highlights health-related stories on TV newscasts. A few weeks removed from back-to-back stints on hurricanes Gustav and Ike, he scheduled a doctor’s visit in November in search of antibiotics for a sore throat.

“The doc put the stethoscope on me and said, ‘How long have you had that wicked murmur?’” Desel said. “I said, ‘What?’ I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t expecting any personal drama.”

His physician referred him to a cardiologist who diagnosed a defective mitral valve, which had produced a condition known as mitral regurgitation, in which blood flows back into the chamber after the heart muscle attempts to push it forward.

The heart muscle expanded and thickened to keep pace with the increased workload, and by the time Desel was being prepped for surgery, he said he could see his chest expand and contract to match the rhythm of his overworked heart.

He underwent successful surgery Dec. 8 at Methodist Hospital’s DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, but his recovery was complicated for a time by a series of transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, as his body coped with the aftermath of the procedure.

He was released from the hospital six weeks ago, he said, with a series of general instructions on how to progress in his recovery.

“They told me I should avoid high-stress environments,” he said, laughing. “So I walked back into the newsroom (10 days ago). But I’m easing into the deadline pressure as I see what I can do and what my comfort level is.”

One of the first things he did was to examine some of the stories he filmed before he was diagnosed to see if he could pick up any signs of his compromised physical condition.

One of the clearest signs, he said, came from a trip during Ike to the 16th floor of the San Luis Hotel, site of Channel 11’s storm bureau.

“I’ve always been a relatively in-shape guy,” he said. “But I got stopped dead in my tracks after four flights of stairs by shortness of breath. That should have been the absolute red flag, but I wrote it off to the baby, getting no sleep and being on the road for two hurricanes.

“Now, I can watch my live shots during Ike and hear the shortness of breath. And so can others I’ve shown (the stories).”

That group presumably includes Channel 11 news director Keith Connors, who understandably was shaken by Desel’s subsequent diagnosis.

“He’s a big, burly, strapping guy, and it’s hard to think of him as being vulnerable,” Connors said. “… He did incredible work in Galveston. He was working 12, 20, 24 hours and never backed down from any of it.”

Desel, a veteran of the Chicago Marathon, is limited to walking these days but is pleased with the pace of his recovery. He’s happy to be working, and Connors is glad to have him back.

“We were very worried that he wasn’t going to make it through, much less make it back on the air,” Connors said. “But we’re happy he’s on the mend and hope to have him back on the air and breaking stories for us.

“His is a cautionary tale to be sure that you take your health serious. It could have been a tragedy and not the triumph we’re talking about today.”

david.barron@chron.com

IS SHEILA JACKSON LEE MOVING TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT?

WHO SHOULD REPLACE HER IN THE CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT?

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) will leave her post in Congress to work in the U.S. State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, sources tell Capitol Annex.

Jackson Lee was among Clinton’s most prominent African American supporters until the final days of her presidential campaign, in spite of the fact that her Congressional District overwhelmingly supported Barack Oabama. Jackson Lee made no apologies for her support of Clinton, although it could have caused her difficulties in the Democratic Primary next year.

Jackson Lee has held her seat in Congress since winning it in 1994, when she defeated Congressman Craig Washington in the Democratic Primary. A former Houston City Councilmember and municipal judge, Jackson Lee is one of Texas’ most outspoken Congressional leaders on issues of foreign policy, including the genocide in Darfur.

Speculation on who will replace Jackson Lee is already beginning. Leading the pack among likely contenders is State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston). Former Houston City Councilwoman Ada Edwards is also a likely contender for the post. There is some speculation that former Texas House Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) will seek the seat now that he is essentially exiled within the House Chamber. Turner seeking the seat, however, seems unlikely.

State Reps. Garnet F. Coleman and Dwayne Bohac are unlikely to seek Jackson Lee’s post, although parts of their districts lie within the boundaries of the Congressional District. Bohac, as a Republican, would be immediately slaughtered at the ballot box. Coleman, on the other hand, is sorely needed and wields far more power and influence in the Texas House right now.

A special election will likely be called for the seat by Texas Governor Rick Perry sometime after Jackson Lee’s resignation is official.

SUPPORTING QUANELL X!

IT’S TIME TO COME UP WITH A STRATEGY!

The Insite hears members of the activist community are coming together Wednesday for a private strategy session to help and support one of their own. That person is Quanell X. You may remember just last week Quanell was hit with a lawsuit by one of the Houston police officers originally accused of beating Marvin Driver. Those officers sued X and Driver claiming defamation of character. The next move is for Quanell X to make. Part of the strategy I hear is for this brainstorming session to decide the next step for the activist community in dealing with this lawsuit. It’s my understanding this meeting will not be open to the public or the news media. Stay tuned to see what comes out of it and the next move of Quanell X. I’m sure he won’t disappoint us!

DO YOU SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN – VOTE ON THE LEFT OF THE BLOG!

AND LEAVE YOUR REASONS WHY IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW!

For the second straight day and less than a day after his first presidential news conference, President Barack Obama has traveled the United States, trying to build public support for his economic stimulus proposal. This time, he spoke and took questions from a crowd in Fort Myers, Florida – a city with the nation’s highest rate of home loan foreclosures.

“We know that in order to address our economic crisis, we are going to have to help homeowners, not just banks, but the homeowners as well,” he said.

President Obama said he will unveil an overall housing strategy in the next few weeks. But he’s already looking at ways to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

As the president spoke in Florida, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the economic stimulus plan. The legislation will go to a committee which will work out differences with the recovery plan that passed the House of Representatives in January. The resulting bill will go to the president for his signature.

“We have had a good debate. That is part of what democracy is all about,” he said. “But the time for talk is over. Folks here in Fort Myers and across America – they need help; they need action and they need it now.”

Mr. Obama was introduced in Fort Myers by Charlie Crist, the popular Governor of Florida, who is one of few nationally-known Republican politicians to endorse the president’s economic recovery plan.

“This is not about partisan politics; this is about rising above that, helping America and reigniting our economy,” he said.

On Monday, the president addressed a community meeting in Elkhart, Indiana, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Later in the week, he will visit a factory in Peoria, Illinois, where workers are facing job cuts.

THE NAACP HOUSTON OFFICE FLOODED WITH CALLS FROM COPS!

WHERE DID THE MYSTERY PAGE COME FROM?

It’s a mystery officials with the Houston office of the NAACP still can’t figure out. Around 11:30 am Tuesday morning the phones at the NAACP office on Wheeler Avenue began ringing off the hook. Every time a worker would answer the phone the response would be: “This is Officer XXXXX did you page me?” Somehow the number to the NAACP office went out in a mass page to some officers with the Houston Police Department. The officers weren’t sure why they were paged and NAACP President Carol Mims Galloway says she had no idea why they were being called. Galloway and workers at the office say for at least a half an hour they received dozens of calls from Houston police officers. No one was able to figure out what happened. Anyone out there got any idea why some many Houston cops received a page from the NAACP office in Houston?

HAVE YOU READ THE COMMUNITY BULLETIN BOARD TODAY?

THE LATEST NEWS AT HILL’S GROCERY STORE!

I caught this picture in Anahuac Monday. It’s Torrey ‘T-Dub’ Walker reading the community bulletin board at Hill’s Grocery store. The announcements weren’t too terribly exciting. There’s a couple of missing pets, dinners being sold for a fundraiser and lots of activities for senior citizens. I think T-Dub is interested in the new exciting bowling night in Anahuac. Are you going too?

BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO HELP WITH DOCTOR SHORTAGE!

WOULD YOU SUPPORT THIS PIECE OF LEGISLATION?

U.S. Representative Gene Green introduced H.R. 916, the Preventive Medicine and Public Health Training Act, and H.R. 914 the Physician Workforce Enhancement Act, with Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) in a bipartisan effort to address the growing physician shortage in the nation.

“Our public health system is already spread too thin and not enough trained professionals are available to cope with the growing demand,” said Rep. Green. “These bills are aimed at providing more resources to hospitals and to individuals wanting to be part of the public health system. ”

The Preventive Medicine and Public Health Training Act will provide $43 million in training grants through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to schools of public health, public health departments, medical schools, or hospitals to plan and develop residency programs in Preventive Medicine, to provide financial aid to residents (to pursue an MPH), or to defray costs associated with a residency training program.

“Every year fewer trained Preventative Medicine professionals are available to fill essential leadership roles at hospitals and clinics,” said Rep. Green. “They provide health screenings, promote disease prevention in at-risk populations, lead public health agencies, become epidemiologists or experts in occupational health. They are essential to maintaining a healthy general population.”

A second piece of legislation introduced with Representative Burgess, the Physician Workforce Enhancement Act, will assist small hospitals that serve rural or growing areas. The goal of this legislation is to provide hospitals with interest-free loans to establish a residency training program for certain high need medical specialties. Under the program, hospitals could receive up to $1 million over 4 years.

“The legislation we are introducing is targeted at the weakest spots of the medical workforce – specializations like family and emergency medicine for small and developing communities,” said Rep. Burgess.

THE HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT ALMOST HAD A FIRST!

THE TRANSSEXUAL AT THE ACADEMY!

The Houston Police Department would’ve made history if a recruit wouldn’t have been eliminated from the police academy just last month. The Insite has learned and confirmed with HPD brass the department had it’s first transsexual recruit enter the police academy. That candidate was ruled out after part of the entry process. The Insite knows the specific reason but I’m not releasing that information in fear of identifying the recruit. But officials with HPD said they were going to give the recruit a fair chance at making it in the department. In fact, I called the department to do a story about it but was told they wanted to wait until the recruit was accepted and graduated. However, as a result of being released from the academy that story won’t happen. This is as much as we’re getting on the subject. Many of the officers the Insite spoke with had mixed feelings about the recruit. Some were accepting, others didn’t care, while many use the “F” word describing the potential HPD cop. I guess we will never know. But that leads to a question: Should transsexuals or transvestites be allowed into the academy? I already know about the male cop turned female who was already on the force, but what about allowing them into the academy? The Insite would like to hear your opinion!

OFFICER WHO ALLEGEDLY REPORTED OFFICERS IS SHUNNED IN DEPARTMENT!

THE LATEST ON THE PRESIDENT OBAMA JOKE!

The Insite hears there’s been some backlash for the officer in training who reported the alleged threatening jokes by some fellow Houston police officers. Those jokes reportedly targeted President Barack Obama. (See Original Post Below) That officer has allegedly been labeled a snitch in the Northeast Precinct where the incident took place according to my sources. In fact, I’m told some veteran officers have refused to work with the officer in training who blew the whistle. I’ve also learned the names of the officers who allegedly told the jokes but it won’t do me any good. I’m told by a spokesman for HPD because the officers are not relieved of duty the department can’t give me the status of the internal probe. The public information officer says it’s part of due process.

Question: Should the HPD officer be shunned and labeled a snitch for their actions or commended for coming forward with the threatening jokes?

Original post:

The Insite hears at least two possibly four Houston police officers are facing an internal investigation for bad jokes. That’s right jokes. Those officers are accused of making those jokes about President Barack Obama. Here’s what the Insite hears: The officers were having lunch when one said they should hang then President Elect Barack Obama. The second officer allegedly said well since he’s not President yet we should just shoot him. Then one of the officers said let’s just gut him. Now you see why these officers are under investigation. An officer in triaining allegedly turned in the veteran cops who made the joke. The Insite has heard from several sources in the department who are angry the officers have not been taken off the streets while the probe is underway. One source says a public servant shouldn’t be joking like this about the President. That person went on to say especially if that public servant is a police officer. Another source at the department is also upset the officers have not been taken off the streets during the probe. The Insite has not heard anything from HPD’s top brass on this issue as of yet. What do you think about the HPD cops little joke time?

BRYANT GUMBEL WAS IN HOUSTON TO TELL TOLAN’S STORY!

REAL SPORTS FOCUSES ON THE CONTROVERSIAL BELLAIRE SHOOTING!

The Insite has learned HBO’s Real Sports anchor Bryant Gumbel was in Houston last week. He was here to interview Robbie Tolan. Tolan is the 23 year old who was shot by a Bellaire police officer last December. The officer said he thought Tolan, a minor league baseball player, was in a stolen vehicle. That officer has been relieved of duty while an internal investigation is underway. Tolan’s father, MLB former player Robert Tolan, says Gumbel interviewed the entire family. Scoop. Supposedly in the interview Tolan Jr. says he can no longer live in his parents home in Bellaire. He’s been staying across town in an undisclosed location because he fears retaliation from the Bellaire police force. In the meantime, Gumbel’s team attempted to interview city officials with Bellaire and all of them turned him down. Gumbel’s report on Tolan is expected to air next week. Because of the committment to HBO the family won’t be talking with any news media until after the story airs. The Tolan family as a result has scheduled a press conference at Windsor Village the day after the HBO report. Tolan’s father says his son has lost 30 pounds since the shooting and will likely need trauma counseling because of the incident. In fact, Tolan Sr. says he and his wife will also get trauma counseling!