HEART AND SOUL: If you hang out in the Delmar Loop for any period of time, you've no doubt met Jim Igoe -- the grandfatherly guardian of the Loop's business district. Jim is a man who's always ready to offer you a friendly greeting, encouragement with your work or tips on good new books, either on the street in any weather or over a beer at Blueberry Hill or Riddle's or a coffee at Meshuggah's. The recent ill tidings that Jim suffered a mild heart attack has spurred his pals in the Loop to pitch in and help with Jim's medical expenses. (Jim was recently transferred from Barnes-Jewish Hospital to Jefferson Barracks, and the good news is that he's recovering grandly.) Contributions for Jim's expenses are being accepted at Riddle's and at Meshuggah's, and a benefit dinner for Jim is being held at Riddle's on Monday, Jan. 18. All monies (including tips and labor) will go to Jim's health expenses, and the Tivoli Theatre is tossing in a free movie pass. The benefit costs $20, and that seems like a ridiculously low price when you consider the goodwill that Jim has brought to the neighborhood over the years. (RB)

SNEAK ATTACK: What's this? Amid the hoopla surrounding Senate Bill 42 -- state Sen. Steve Ehlmann's proposal to direct how St. Louis city collects revenue (even though the Republican senator represents St. Charles County) -- no attention has been paid to a provision in the bill that would allow defense attorneys in civil cases to take their cases out of the city into areas where jury verdicts are more likely to favor their clients. It's a war that has raged for years between plaintiff's attorneys and defense lawyers representing businesses sued in personal-injury cases. Defense attorneys claim verdicts awarded in St. Louis city are too high. Plaintiff's attorneys say allowing a change of venue would mean injured parties have less recourse in obtaining relief. The issue is so controversial, some question whether supporters of the provision slipped it into Ehlmann's bill because SB 42 itself is so controversial that no one would notice the change-of-venue section. (MR)

BLITZEN, ICED: The Santa looked morose, his eyes puffy and downcast, his arms wrapped around an antlered deer sprawled on the snow in a puddle of blood. The greeting read, "Only in Town & Country!" It was signed, with holiday blessings, by Mayor John D. Marx, whose wicked sense of humor -- and sincere love of Town & Country's temporarily endangered deer -- clearly outweigh political prudence. A refreshing change from the cautious smarm that's become the norm. (JB)

HOT (COUCH) POTATO: With a blizzard going on, Saturday was a day destined for serious TV viewing. Unfortunately for St. Louis sports fans, the programming was a bit shy on happy endings. First, the SLU Billikens coughed up a comeback against the resilient Southwest Missouri State Bears, who ran the table against Missouri's other four Division 1 teams this year. With their team's victories over SLU, Mizzou, SEMO and UM-KC, the Bears' fans are now acting as if they've reached the status of Duke or Carolina. If they don't stumble to Wichita State or Creighton, then we're talking dynasty, but not a moment before. The afterglow of the Kansas win is waning in Bills-Land. Worse yet was watching the Arizona vs. Dallas NFL playoff game. Bill Bidwill, stoically prowling the sideline, was treated as a combination Santa Claus and goodly grandfather -- a throwback, a family owner who treated himself to a scoop of ice cream after wins. What revisionist claptrap! The man's family has gouged three cities, with Arizonans now expected to ante up for a new stadium after one playoff win since the Truman administration. Talk about a double dip! (TC)

SPREADING THE NEW: The Guardian reported recently that Monsanto is to beprosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive because of its deliberate release of genetically modified oilseed rape into the countryside. This is the first such case in Britain. Monsanto and the other company charged, Perryfield Holdings, will appear before Lincolnshire magistrates and face an unlimited fine. According to The Guardian, Monsanto is not contesting the prosecution. An inspection showed that barriers to prevent the modified crop from spreading had been partially removed. After all, nothing succeeds like excess. (JB)

Contributors: Jeannette Batz, Richard Byrne, Thomas Crone, Melinda Roth

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