Thursday, April 6, 2017

Michael Brown's mother

Michael Brown’s mother screams in anguish as she listens to the St. Louis prosecutor announcing that a grand jury did not find “probable cause” to indict the police officer who fatally shot her son. She is standing on top of a car at night, overlooking a sea of protesters in Ferguson. The crowd is on edge as they watch and listen to a mother’s raw pain.
“They think this is a fucking joke,” she cries. Her voice is filled with emotion.
Someone in the crowd yells as if to explain, “They killed her baby, man.”
“I can’t get nobody back,” McSpadden says.
She shakes her head in grief.
A man in the crowd yells: “We love you Miss Lesley.” His expression of sympathy is followed by a chorus of “We love you, Miss Lesley. We love you, Miss Lesley. We love you, Miss Lesley.”
She doesn’t appear to hear the chorus beneath her gathered outside in Ferguson—all looking for answers. She didn’t ask for this. Nothing in her life prepared her for this moment. She is a mother of a movement, a woman who only months before worked anonymously at a deli, lived an ordinary life, taking care of her children and trying to get her oldest son through high school.
And now, she is on top of a car in a white hat with #JFMB etched on it, addressing a crowd on a cold night in Ferguson. With her word, she can calm them, with her words she can excite them. But it does not seem she is thinking about this power. Right now, she is a mother screaming in agony.
“You know they wrong,” she yells. “Anybody out here who don’t think so, I don’t give a fuck. They are wrong. Everybody want me to be calm. Do you know how them bullets hit my son? What they did to his body? Nobody had to live what I lived through and ya’ll have to come with the fucked up comments.”
The scene could have been ripped directly from the pages of a tragedy: a flawed protagonist shown in a moment of distress, confronting her antagonist about an untimely death. Below her is a chorus in the crowd echoing her plea. “They wrong. They wrong. They wrong,” the crowd repeats her words.
McSpadden continues her soliloquy, as though she is standing alone.
“Why? Oh, why?” McSpadden screams. “They still don’t’ care. They ain’t never gonna care.”
She wrestles with the why, some kind of explanation, as if the killing was somehow her fault.

"I’ve been here my whole life I ain’t never had to go through nothing like this,” she says. “I don’t do nothing to nobody.”
She holds her head with both hands. She sobs. She rocks. Her husband, Louis Head, embraces her.
Then he turns to the crowd and yells and unleashes his own anger: “Burn this bitch down! Burn this bitch down! Burn this bitch down!”
Thousands of people have watched McSpadden’s most intimate moments of grief captured on video, shared on YouTube and Facebook—images of a mother’s pain unadulterated and unfiltered, disturbing, pricking the conscience of viewers, compounding empathy for this mother whose grief is unedited, on full display, unveiled not behind closed doors but in the middle of a public street for everyone to see.
Last week, after St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced in a late night press conference, explaining without emotion the decision of a grand jury, McSpadden watched in a public square in Ferguson.

Her grief seemed to have come full circle from the rawness of the screams captured Aug. 9 when she found out her son was killed, to her calm calls for justice in Washington and Geneva, to her calls for peaceful protest the day before the announcement and again to full out raw emotion.

Since her son was shot, she has been riding an “emotional roller coaster,” said the family’s attorney Benjamin Crump, who said the killing of Michael Brown has drained the family during the three months of grief.
“To have a kid killed in this manner, and then to have a public fight to get simple justice and never have time to grieve, it is emotional toll on both of them,” Crump said. “It’s really bad.”
The public first sees McSpadden Aug. 9, the moment she shows up at the police scene, as her son’s body still lies in the middle of Canfield Drive in Ferguson.
Crowds gathered behind yellow police tape watch as McSpadden pleads with officers to attend her son’s body, which still lay uncovered for four hours behind yellow police tape. We watch her helpless. She can’t get to Michael Brown Jr. She is powerless.  She cannot change what has happened. She is experiencing every black mother’s worst nightmare—her black son killed by a white police officer after walking down the street unarmed.
She spins. She grabs her head and she wails, unleashing a piercing scream: “Why? Why? Why did you have to shoot my son?”
The emotion again is raw. McSpadden, wearing red with her hair pulled back, cries into television cameras: “You took my son away from me. You know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level because they feel like they don't have much to live for anyway....'They are going to try to take me out anyway.' "
Over the next months, as the grand jury deliberated, McSpadden would appear again in public, composed. Speaking few words behind podiums as lights flashed and cameras zoom in on her, waiting for her words, any words.

The time line of her public appearances follows the progression of her journey.

Aug. 9: Three hours after Michael Brown Jr. is killed, McSpadden is captured by cameras sprinkling red rose petals on the yellow line in the street where her son’s body lay. Protests erupt a block away.
On Aug. 10., McSpadden tells a reporter that police never contacted her to identify her sons body. “The only way I learned about him was from a guy calling me on my phone. I was able to look on his phone and say that is my son laying in the streets for hours. Hours.”
On Aug. 11, as Brown Sr. explained to reporter his son "a funny, smart kid who would make you laugh. He had just graduated from high school was on his way to college to take up heating and cooling,"
McSpadden stands next to him weeping.

Her face seems frozen in a pain that lies close to the surface. She is not stoic. She is not a person who hides her grief. She is a woman of few words.
When asked to say how she felt, she chokes back words. “I want justice for my son. I know who I raised. I know.”
Two days, later she appears at a rally at a church. A tear rolls down her face as she explained that no one from the police department had called her to explain what happened. She asked how anyone could be afraid of her son.
On the day before the funeral, McSpadden met with the Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvone Martin, who was killed in Florida, and Valerie Bell, the other of Sean Bell, who was killed by plan clothes police officers in New York in Nov. 25, 2006, the morning before his wedding. They told her to keep her head up.
“They are speaking to me from experience,” McSpadden told CNN’s Don Lemon. “They are offering me something right now. I can’t tell you what it is but it is something, something is better than nothing.”
Fulton turned to McSpadden and told her to focus on happier times. “Don’t focus on his death,” Fulton said. “It will eat away at you.”
Bell told her, “Losing my son is like losing a part of my body, like losing an arm.”
At the funeral, as speakers talked about how Brown’s death had become a rallying cry, McSpadden, dressed in red and pearls with bare feet sitting on the front row, doubled over in grief.
As days turned into weeks, she seemed to find more words to express her grief.

In October in Washington, McSpaden explained she felt as if their son’s life had been unfairly scrutinized by the news media and law enforcement, even as relatively little remained known about the officer who shot him.

“My son is gone,” she said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. “There was one person out there with a gun. That is the person we should be focusing on.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Sunday Dinner’ evokes sweet memories and tradition

"Sunday Dinner,” a “Savor the South” cookbook written by Bridgette A. Lacy, was recently published by The University of North Carolina Press. (Lisa Tutman-Oglesby)

Bridgette A. Lacy remembers the fine Sunday dinners cooked by her grandfather at his home in Lynchburg, Va., where he grew cantaloupes so sweet, she said, “they tasted like he had poured sugar in the ground.”

She called him “Papa,” and he was the best cook she had ever known.

He called her “his sugar girl.”

To have a seat at his Sunday dinner table was an experience to behold.

Each Sunday, when Lacy was growing up, her family − including her cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles and parents − would gather at her grandparents’ table, where they were served meals cooked by her grandparents. Those dinners included fried chicken, potato salad, yeast rolls, freshly snapped string beans, delicate coconut pies and a dessert her grandfather called “Nilla Wafer Brown Pound Cake.”

Lacy, a food writer based in North Carolina, has just published “Sunday Dinner,” a beautiful collection of essays and Southern recipes that will make your mouth water with each turn of the page. Lacy captures the essence of what those Sunday dinners meant for generations of people in the South.

“Sunday dinner,” Lacy writes, “was not just a meal on the plate; it was a palette of rich colors and textures. In my family, Sunday dinner meant that the table was set with ironed linen. The good china and the silver sat alongside the gold- and silver-aluminum tumblers that kept the sweet tea nice and cold. The fried chicken and butter beans were seasoned to perfection.”

Careful attention was paid to each detail in her grandparents’ kitchen, where food was cooked from scratch, spices were savored, freshly picked greens were simmered, canned goods were clearly labeled, utensils organized at the ready, blackberries turned into sweet cobblers, children were raised to behave, and dinners were mixed with soul.

“Sunday dinner was the artistic expression of my grandfather’s love for his family,” she writes, “and it was a masterpiece.”

Lacy’s description of her “Papa’s” meal preparation evokes the best kind of food writing and reminds this reader of the kitchen magic evoked in the novel “Like Water for Chocolate.”

Read more here: Click link.

Piercing the Arctic's Icy Unknown U.S. Cutter Explores Northwest Passage, Polar Melting

Piercing the Arctic's Icy Unknown U.S. Cutter Explores Northwest Passage, Polar Melting

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Foreign Service

ABOARD THE U.S. COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY -- The ship slams against the wicked ice of the Northwest Passage. From inside the vessel's belly, the ice seems to be fighting back, roaring, screaming, pounding against the steel hull. The ship is stopped cold in the frozen tracks of the passage. It pauses, backs up in black water, then rams the great white frozen ridges again.

The weakened ice finally bends and gives way.

The Healy, the newest icebreaker in the U.S. Coast Guard, moves slowly forward, as if putting a foot through the throat of the Arctic. But to either side of the ship, the ice is untouched, six feet thick, looking like a frozen extension of land.

Explorers have battled the passage's ice for hundreds of years, trying to find a northern shortcut to riches in Asia. The battle was fierce. Often it was the ice that killed, luring in ships and their woolen-covered crews, then without warning closing quickly behind them, trapping, deep-freezing and burying them.

Today, the once-unbreakable slabs of ice are melting, dripping more quickly than ever before. The passage may yet become navigable, opening a new trading route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But that accessibility may mean ecological disaster.

The world, it seems, is melting from the top.

The Healy has made it this far at a good pace in part because the polar cap is shrinking, thinning. Some scientists say it may disappear entirely, little by little each summer, in just 50 years. The coverage of Arctic Sea ice has shrunk by about 6 percent since 1978. The average thickness of the ice has gone from 10.2 feet in the 1950s to 5.9 feet this year, a loss of 42 percent, according to the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway.

While it is clear the ice is melting, scientists disagree as to why and what it means. The effect could be benign, or it could be the start of catastrophic climate change that would kill polar bears, whales, plankton and other life in the north and flood coastal cities in the south. It is here at the top of the world, where the environment is the most pure, most delicate, most serene, that scientists can draw conclusions.

"Clearly, the temperatures are getting warmer. Is this part of the natural process or is this due to things people have done, burning too much carbon dioxide?" asks Capt. Jeffrey M. Garrett, commanding officer of the Healy.

His ship's 26,000-nautical mile voyage began in January in the warm waters of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, where the ship was built. The Healy sailed to waters off northern Canada, crossed the Atlantic to call in Ireland and Greenland, then headed for the passage en route to Seattle.

The purpose was to let the Healy, a 420-foot, diesel-propelled floating science lab, test its icebreaking powers and begin scientific studies. On the voyage so far, scientists have used Doppler radar to make images of the ocean floor, finding previously unknown structures and contours. They have taken samples of water at different depths and readings on ice conditions.

"The effects will be seen in the polar regions first," Garrett says. "The ice is not as thick nor is it as extensive."

Still, as he talks, the Healy shakes and rolls as the ice continues to resist its advance.

It is July 21, and the ship is moving through Barrow Strait. It is making better speed here because the ice has diminished, floating in chunks. The water is a great dark abyss that looks inviting, even though it would kill any crew member who fell overboard in less than three minutes.

The ship combines its mass, 16,500 tons, the design of the hull and its diesel power to ride up on ice sheets that get in its way, then break them with its weight.

Capt. Garrett stands starboard in Coast Guard blue. He is trying to determine the lay of the ice, the thickness of its ridges. Looking for the path of least resistance. The midnight sun won't go away. It could be midnight; it could be 10 in the morning. Time doesn't matter here.

With so much ice and water, it is difficult to imagine that this is a desert in terms of precipitation. In the 24-hour daylight of summer, temperatures rise to 50 degrees. In the endless dark of winter, they drop to 60 degrees below zero, freezing any flesh left exposed. The wind is persistent. Magnetic compasses are not reliable so close to the North Pole. Here, one must rely on the human mind.

"For those of us who sail icebreakers and go to the polar regions," Garrett says, "the Northwest Passage has long had an almost mystical appeal. Many in the crew had read up on the centuries of exploration and searches for the passage, much of which ended in tragedy."

On his mind, he says, is the voyage led by Sir John Franklin in 1845. No one in that 129-man expedition returned. One theory is that they were poisoned by the lead that sealed the cans of beef they ate.

It was not until 1903 that explorers succeeded in completing the voyage the Healy is attempting. They were led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and took three years. In 1940, the St. Roch, a schooner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also succeeded. It took two years. By 1967, only seven ships had traveled the passage end to end.

Sarah Corteville, a 22-year-old ensign whose dream it was to travel the passage, is in her cabin listening to the words of Canadian songwriter Stan Rogers. From her computer in the cramped quarters comes the eerie song:

Ah, for just one time

I would take the Northwest Passage

To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.

Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage

And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

Earlier in the voyage, the song came spilling out of the public address system, scratchy and hesitant. But Sarah listened and, with a gifted ear, began singing it. "The Northwest passage, it's a romantic thing," she says. "So few people get to go through it. And this song was so cool."

Outside her porthole, the endless white dazzles.

It is late on July 21, and the Healy has entered Peel Sound. It is forcing itself through a five-foot-thick wall of ice. The deck of the ship sways. The stomach grows uneasy unless one has sea legs and Dramamine pills from the ship's medic. The ship shakes. It backs up and rams again. The questions arise only for a second: Will the ship make it? What is the way out?

As always, it does make it. The ocean and ice ahead look like a blue Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Snow piles up like whipped cream. The ship cuts the ice more easily now. The ice swirls and turns over. Behind the ship is a trail of crushed chunks.

With the naked eye, Dan Crosbie, an ice service specialist with the Canadian government's department of environment, sees a difference in the ice. "The melt is occurring earlier," Crosbie says. "What we used to face were drastic conditions. The ice itself is not as thick as normal."

He is one of three Canadians on board the Healy; the mission was an icebreaker of sorts between the United States and Canada.

For decades the waters of the Arctic have been the source of conflict between the two countries. Canada has asserted sovereignty over the passage, claiming it has a right to draw straight baselines around the perimeter of the archipelago, limit the territory of the sea and control who can and cannot go through.

The United States, contending that the passage is international water, presses for freedom of navigation. The last time it sent an icebreaker here, in 1985, it did not ask Canada for permission. But in 1988, the countries agreed that all navigation by U.S. icebreakers in waters claimed by Canada would be undertaken with consent from the Canadian government.

"As far as Canada is concerned, all Arctic islands [and waters] are national territory and fall under our jurisdiction," says Rene Turenne, captain of a Canadian coast guard icebreaker, who is along for the ride, both for his expertise and as a diplomatic courtesy to Canada.

He notes that not a few people in Canada believe that the passage should be closed to navigation. "It's a fragile environment. Unless you have serious reasons, you shouldn't disturb the ice. . . . Some environmentalists think just the noise the ship makes transmits through the waters for hundreds of miles, possibly 1,000 miles away, disrupting the migration of the bullhead whale. There is some speculation the whales can hear each other across the Arctic Ocean, but no whale has mentioned that."

He smiles.

Other environmentalists argue that simply breaking the ice causes damage, leaving behind more jumble. The breaking of ice may speed the melting of ice. A seal might be crushed.

Anything done by people has an impact on the Arctic, they say. One can map the evolution of poisons in the ecosystem: coal, oil, the toxin DDT, nuclear debris. The evolution of industry in the past 100 years can be tasted in the ice.

The Arctic is fragile. It doesn't have the biological activity to break down waste. "The biological systems here are more vulnerable because there is no one else here to share the pain," Turenne says. "There is no safe place. The Arctic knows no refuge from anyone."

It is Saturday, July 22. In Victoria Strait, the ice looks deceptively like solid land. Ahead, it specifically resembles a ridge. The Healy cuts cleanly through. Pieces of ice circle and swirl, turning over in the blue Kool-Aid water of the ship's wake.

From the second deck, the smell of steamed, frozen crab legs and lamb chops seeping from dinner in the mess hall mixes with the chill and stillness of the air.

Most of the crew has been on board six months, a long time from home. The time on board is marked by reveille, work, meals, movies, e-mail and sleep through daylight that never ends. Morale is high. The more progress the ship makes against the ice, the higher the hope that home will come sooner.

Frank Perniola, 38, a senior chief machinery technician, looks over the rails from two stories above the ice.

"It's clean," Perniola says of the vast expanse. He reflects on how few people have been here before. There is no visible evidence of pollution. He wonders what harm people will bring if the passage becomes more viable. "What more can we screw up? Some places were just meant to be left alone."

The sea is back to ice and water now. It looks like Aqua Velva. The ship is moving through Peel Sound.

It is 2300 hours, but the sun still shines. On the bridge, chief warrant officer Timothy Malcolm is on watch while most of the crew sleeps, the light slipping through their portholes, the ship rocking them in their bunks.

Faintly at first, there is a signal, a long jagged mark of neon green that blinks on the radar screen. It beeps again, this time more persistently. What could it be? The cutter is alone in the passage, except for the seals, the polar bears, the narwhals, the birds, the water and the ice. No other ships for hundreds of miles.

"Something is giving us this radar return. We are getting radar reflection," says Malcolm. "Why there would be one here I have no idea."

The ship is going 7.2 knots. Here, the water looks shallow.

The signal beeps again. Malcolm checks the binoculars. He sees nothing but great slabs of ice and cupcakes of snow. The cutter moves closer, closer. The signal continues its persistent call, clear as day.

When a crew has been too many days at sea, sometimes the horizon appears elevated. The light bends. Mariners call it a fata morgana, "a complex mirage, characterized by marked distortion, generally in the vertical. It may cause objects to appear towering, magnified and at times even multiplied," says the Glossary of Marine Navigation.

Malcolm changes course 3 degrees. Finally, the ship passes the location of the faint signal.


Perhaps it was a metal antenna left on an ice floe by someone. By whom? And why hasn't it fallen deep into the black water?

The signal disappears. "That was weird," Malcolm says.

Was it a whale with a tag?

"I don't think it would stay there in the same place," Malcolm says. "It must have been the ice giving that signal. But I've never seen ice give a signal."

The maritime log calls it a phantom signal, something that shows up on radar but doesn't have an actual presence.

A signal in the passage. A phantom echo.

At Love's Table, Plenty for Everyone


By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer

The last time money came up missing from Love's Family Restaurant, owner Samuel T. Love Sr. knew it was his head waiter who had helped himself.

So "Papa Love," as his family and regular customers call him, put on his coat and walked up the street to find out just how far Jerry Rufus had gone.

He went first to the drugstore, and then to the supermarket, where he questioned a clerk. The clerk nodded. Yes, he had seen Rufus. The waiter hadn't bothered to take off his white shirt and red apron before exchanging a roll of quarters for bills. He had taken the money and run -- to get his next dosage of heroin.

That wasn't the first time Rufus had stolen from the Love family, which owns the restaurant that serves helpings of love, greens and chitterlings on H Street NE.

All kinds of people from the Northeast Washington neighborhood walk into the restaurant with the maroon tablecloths, plastic plates and waiters who have been down on their luck. People come for food when they are hungry, money when they are behind on the rent and a bathroom when they are homeless.

Nobody is turned away. And nobody remembers the last time someone came to the family for help and one of the Loves said no, even to Rufus, who has known them 15 years and done them wrong plenty of times.

"The man has lifted me up so many times," said Rufus, 50, a recovering heroin addict, who met the Loves at church before he "backslid."

"I've stolen from him," he said of Samuel Love Sr. "I stole his car. I took money from the till. I'm not talking about one or two dollars. I'm talking hundreds, like it was my money. I've done everything to that man but verbally disrespect him. Me, I have no business being here."

The Loves have sent Rufus to drug treatment centers and given him shelter when he was homeless.

Samuel Love Sr., 73, said a lot of people wonder how he can keep forgiving this man after all he's done. "I say God gives us a chance. Just like we mess up, he forgives us and gives us a chance to come back," Love Sr. said. "I feel like if I can't trust somebody, I'm not following God's rules."

Said Irene Love, 65, "I always say, Never look down on someone unless you're picking them up.' "

The Loves -- Irene and Samuel Sr. and their children, Samuel Jr. and Althea Love-Salvatierra -- said they believe that the restaurant, whose customers say serves some of the best soul food in town, is more than a business. It is a haven for people in need, the kind of place that government officials hope will fill holes in the social service safety net. They've given away more food and money than they can count. There is nothing in the books that can measure how much, and they are not looking for a profit.

They advertise as a restaurant that serves soul food in a Christian atmosphere.

"We break even, but it's all right," Love-Salvatierra said. "This restaurant to me is not just a restaurant; it's a ministry. We believe God blessed us with this place, so we've got to do what he blessed us to do."

Sometimes people promise to pay later. Some return to pay a little on their bills; others don't. But the Loves carry no grudges and keep giving. The Loves, who are not affiliated with any organized feeding program or homeless shelter, said they believe they are offering a service to people and the city.

"You don't know what a person might do if they get too hungry," Irene Love said. "They might hit somebody in the head. Maybe giving someone a sandwich could stop someone from snatching a purse or doing something to someone to get a sandwich."

On a recent chilly night, a man pushed open the door to the restaurant at 514 H St. NE. It was near closing time, and Irene Love was near the cash register. The man, scratching and dirty, asked for a dollar. One of the waiters reached in his pocket and gave the man a bill. Before the man turned to leave and without hesitation, Irene Love yelled to the cook to fix the man a sandwich.

Irene Love is from Virginia, her husband from North Carolina. They ran a family restaurant in New York before moving to Washington. Irene Love's face has soft, brown folds, a countenance that soothes customers with an expression that says everything will be okay. She rarely raises her voice.

Samuel Love Sr. also is quiet. He speaks in measured tones and talks often about the ways of a religious man.

The menu includes hamburger steak, pig's feet, fish, barbecued ribs, cabbage, greens, fish and grits and scrapple -- all prepared from recipes Irene Love keeps in her head. Regular customers include cabdrivers, government workers and others, who say the food is good and the Loves are like family.

The restaurant employs 15 people, including some who were recently released from jail and mothers seeking to end dependence on government assistance. "People use this as a steppingstone," Love-Salvatierra said. "Mom teaches them how to cook and teaches them on the grill."

Love-Salvatierra said the business breaks even most times. But the family's generosity sometimes makes them late paying utility bills. "We may have to pay another deposit, but somebody's kids aren't on the street," she said.

On a recent afternoon, Gospel music poured from a small box radio on the window sill behind the cash register. Irene Love was sitting in her favorite chair across the small table from Papa Love. For 16 years, from 7 a.m., when the restaurant opens, to 7 p.m., when it closes, the Loves have watched a stream of people flow through their door.

A transvestite named Jacquelyn walked in. His tight denim skirt was dirty. He swept long, brown curls from his wig out of his face. His eyes were lined with thick, black mascara. He took a seat near the corner and promptly was served his favorite dish of pork chops. It didn't matter that Jacquelyn rarely pays on time.

"I like to come in out of the madness, come to a real setting," Jacquelyn said. "The people here are down to earth. There is no pretense. They make you feel like it's family."

None of the customers looked twice when Jacquelyn came in. He returned later to change clothes after doing his laundry.

Mae Bridges, 61, a waitress who wears white shoes and a net over her red hair, said the Loves are the best employers she's ever worked for. But the retired cook for the National Institutes of Health said the Love family also is too trusting. "A lot of people come in and keep begging and begging, and they keep giving and giving," Bridges said. "They never say no. You should see the stack of tickets of people who won't pay.

"You never see them angry and harsh," she said. "If something goes wrong, they put it in God's hands and pray. If I come in here with a headache, they say, Don't claim it. It's the devil. Pray.' "

Bridges keeps track of how much customers owe the Loves. She opened the book on who has an outstanding balance: Kevin owes 75 cents; Jacky owes $2.75; Charles, a regular, owes $6.75; Walter, $8.70; and Wolfe, $3.30.

The Loves said their goodwill comes back in the form of an informal neighborhood watch that focuses on their restaurant.

"You see good things happen here," Rufus said. "They won't touch this shop."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mr. Wonderful

Mr. Wonderful

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005
See that lady on the bus, back there. The lady with the long black-brown braids, with red wine lipstick and feet so swollen they seem to melt into puddles, spilling over her black shoes.

See her backpack, her home on her lap. She is wearing a jacket, despite a heat index of 106.

Don't stare. But notice that after the bus made its last stop, the lady is still riding, curled up in that blue plastic seat, her head tucked beneath her arms, like the folded wings of a sleeping bird.

And if you rode all night, you would notice that when the bus gets to the end of the line and turns around for its next run, she does not get off, but keeps riding.

On that bus going down Georgia Avenue, you notice another woman sitting with dignity, and then you look at her feet, and notice although they are covered by red fishnet stockings, they, too, are melting into puddles.

Read more here:

Racial turmoil in Md.’s ‘Friendliest Town’ after black police chief is fired

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer

POCOMOKE CITY, Md. — The crowd gathered outside City Hall last week, demanding that their community’s first black police chief — fired amid allegations leveled against white officers of departmental racism — be given his job back.

In a place that bills itself as the “Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore,” angry residents marched with posters that read “We Support Chief Kelvin Sewell” and jammed inside the quaint red-brick building to voice their outrage to the Pocomoke City Council.

Pocomoke City has been on edge since Sewell was fired by the council June 29. According to the former chief and his supporters, he was sacked for refusing to dismiss two black officers who described working in a hostile environment.

The officers alleged in complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that they faced racism that was overt and rampant — allegations the city denies. Among the incidents alleged: a food stamp superimposed with President Obama’s face that was left on a black detective’s desk and a text message that read, “What is ya body count nigga?”

“This is one of the most egregious cases of primary racial discrimination and retaliation for assertion of rights before the EEOC that I’ve seen,” said Andrew G. McBride, co-counsel for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which is representing Sewell. “Chief Sewell has a fantastic record as a police officer. He was terminated because he stood up for two African American officers who filed an EEOC complaint.”

Read more here:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Toronto Detectives Raced to Stop SARS Virus in 2003

By DeNeen L. Brown

TORONTO, May 10 -- The disease investigator was anxious. A terrifying, invisible illness was spreading like a predator in the city. It was already days ahead of him, and the detective knew he had just hours to catch up with it before it killed again.

But on this day in mid-March, Mark Bartlett had few clues to work with. Public health officials in Toronto had only recently begun to suspect that the disease here might be associated with the one that was already ravaging parts of Asia and had just been given a name: severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Bartlett and a health inspector, Henry Chong, both from Toronto Public Health, entered a suburban townhouse looking for clues to what killed one of its residents, a 78-year-old woman who had recently visited Hong Kong. They also were hunting for airline tickets or anything else that would indicate whether she had transported a deadly disease to Toronto on a jet from Hong Kong, where SARS cases were numerous, and who else might have been on that plane.

Their search and those conducted by other public health officials around the city eventually led to the containment of SARS in Toronto, not by solving the scientific mystery surrounding the disease but by tracing the people who were carrying it. Old-fashioned, gumshoe detective work -- finding people and isolating them -- was instrumental in stopping the disease’s spread.

Toronto had become the epicenter of the biggest outbreak of the virus outside Asia. Twenty-three people died in the city, more than 300 were infected -- half of them health care workers -- and 10,000 were quarantined. Before the danger was considered to have passed, public health investigators worked morning to night, interviewing hundreds of people, probing their faulty memories, backtracking, looking at diaries, using a police database, breaking into buildings -- following any lead that might reveal the path of the killer disease.

“If we didn’t contain it, it had the potential to spread,” said Colin D’Cunha, Ontario’s commissioner of public health. “One simply could not predict the consequences of that. We had the opportunity to catch it in Toronto, and if we didn’t catch it, it had the potential to spread in North America.”

In Toronto, where more than half the population was born elsewhere, public health officials thought they were prepared to deal with contagions brought from countries where infectious diseases have not been eradicated. But this microbe, whatever it was, baffled them

“We didn’t know at the time whether it was bacteria or a virus,” said Bonnie Henry, associate medical officer of health for Toronto. “We weren’t sure what the incubation period was. We weren’t sure quite how it was transmitted, whether it was droplets, whether it was contact or whether it was airborne. There was no way to tell whether someone had been exposed and was not yet ill. There is no test to tell if somebody was going to get ill. There is no way to tell if they actually have the disease. There was no treatment and no vaccine.”

When Bartlett and Chong searched the townhouse in the suburb of Scarborough on March 17, they knew that one of its residents, Sui-chu Kwan, had died on March 5, 11 days after flying home from Hong Kong. They also knew that her son, who had picked her up at the airport, had died a week later. But they didn’t know when the woman had contracted the disease or when she was most likely to have passed it to others.

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“It was unclear whether the woman, who had died at home, had been ill prior to leaving Hong Kong,” Henry said. “So we were concerned about the flight.”

They swept the room with their eyes, scanning for subtle clues in much the same way that a detective dusts for fingerprints. “At that point in the chronology, we were looking for anything out of the ordinary,” Bartlett said. “We didn’t know what we were dealing with.”

While Bartlett went from room to room, Chong checked the air in the house for carbon monoxide or any other gases. They looked in the kitchen, then went up to the bedrooms.

“You never know when you are going in someone’s house what you might run into,” Bartlett said. “There were many unknowns. The main thing was: Was there going to be something there that was critical that I wouldn’t pick up on? When you are dealing with the unknown, there could be something there causing a problem, but it looks normal.”

Bartlett looked in the bedroom, under the bed and finally in the closet. There sat the luggage from the trip. The baggage tags were still attached to the handles. A passenger list was quickly secured, passengers were contacted, and none was found to have been infected. That meant that Kwan was unlikely to have passed the disease to anyone until after she had reached Toronto, which sharply narrowed the number of threads the investigators had to follow.

Bartlett’s discovery did not end the SARS crisis in Toronto. But along with clues turned up by other investigators, it helped focus the effort to contain the disease. There was still work to be done.

Odyssey of a Killer Microbe

The story of how the virus came to Toronto begins with Kwan, a 78-year-old woman who immigrated to Canada years ago.

On Feb. 11, she and her husband flew to visit their son, who lived in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district, according to Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. The couple’s Continental Airlines vacation package included a pass to stay six nights at a hotel of their choice.

After staying at their son’s house for six days, they decided to take advantage of the hotel offer. They chose the Metropole, which promised “elegantly appointed” rooms and a stunning view of the city. They checked in on Feb. 17.

They checked out Feb. 21, the same day a professor from China’s Guangdong province checked in. The professor had been looking after people in Guangdong who were suffering from a deadly new illness, identified only as an acute respiratory syndrome. By the time he checked into the Metropole, he was already feeling quite ill. He was assigned a room on the ninth floor, the same floor as the Kwans.

The next day, the professor checked out and went to a hospital, where he subsequently died. The professor became the index case, or the first carrier of the disease, in Hong Kong.

No one knows whether Sui-chu Kwan met the professor, rode the elevator with him or simply touched the same elevator button.

“Knowing what we know about contact spread . . . they might have shared the same elevator ride,” Low said. “It might have been the professor contaminated the elevator button with the virus they might have subsequently acquired. He was responsible for nine other cases of SARS that went on about the world.”

Kwan and her husband returned to Toronto on Feb. 23. Her son picked them up at the airport and drove them to the townhouse they shared with two sons, a daughter-in-law and a 5-month-old boy. “She looked like she was just tired from the flight,” said Low, who talked to family members. But by the following day, she had started to develop what appeared to be a chest cold. She went to her family doctor, who told her she had the flu and prescribed antibiotics. But Kwan, who had diabetes and heart disease, became increasingly ill.

Wednesday, March 5: Kwan died in her sleep.

Paramedic Wayde Lansing remembers getting the call at about 6 that morning. “I was at ground zero with the very first patient,” he said later. Lansing recalled that Kwan’s husband sat next to her in her room. He remembered her two sons mourning. But he could not recall the face of the woman who would come to be known as Patient 1. He said it was a coping mechanism he used in his job. Otherwise the faces of the dead “would haunt me,” he said.

It appeared Kwan had died of cardiac arrest. People often die of heart attacks early in the morning. Lansing needed to call the coroner, but his cell phone was not working. He remembered asking to use the phone in the townhouse. It was the same phone that Kwan’s son used to call 911. It was the same son who had just given his mother mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

By habit, Lansing used a tissue to wipe off the phone, but it was just an ordinary tissue, not the type soaked in antibacterial chemicals that promises to clean 99.9 percent of germs. “I called the coroner. I offered my condolences. I shook hands with the young gentleman without gloves at this point,” he said.

Later, after Lansing came down with SARS-like symptoms, he would recall the visit to the Kwan house as the first of six calls he made over several days and the one that might have exposed him to a microbe that no one knew anything about.

Friday, March 7: Kwan’s eldest son, Chi Kwai Tse, developed a fever, cough and chest pain. He checked into Scarborough Grace Hospital, where doctors diagnosed pneumonia.

Tse spent the night on a gurney in the emergency room, waiting for a room in the crowded hospital. A thin, cotton curtain, only about six feet away, separated him from a 76-year-old man who was suffering from heart disease. The two never met, but they would later become known as Patient 2 and Patient 8.

Tse was finally transferred to intensive care, and doctors thought he might have tuberculosis. “It is a common diagnosis in that part of the city. We see a quarter of the cases of tuberculosis in the city of Toronto,” Henry said. “We have a large immigrant population here . . . and many people come from areas where tuberculosis is really common.”

That experience proved valuable in containing SARS. So did the time that many of them had spent in Third World countries.

“I had worked in Uganda during the Ebola outbreak. I did work with TB. I had a higher comfort level,” Henry said. Ebola was incredibly deadly, causing its victims to bleed to death, and Henry was not afraid of this new illness. She tracked people down and isolated them instead of sending her staff to do the work. “The initial interviews,” she said, “I did myself until we became more comfortable.”

Saturday, March 8: Tse’s condition deteriorated. He was having trouble breathing. His oxygen levels fell. Public health inspectors began an investigation for tuberculosis, trying to locate everyone Tse had been in contact with. But as the week progressed, it became more apparent they were dealing with something else.

“It wasn’t presenting like TB,” Henry said. “And his tuberculosis test came back negative. That made us think, ‘Wow, what else is going on?’ “

Meanwhile, Patient 8 was discharged.

Sunday, March 9: Doctors asked Tse’s family to come in for X-rays -- five adults and three children. “The doctor looking after the young man realized a couple of the family members were a lot sicker today than they had been, and he again called us and said there is something else going on here,” Henry said. “And we made arrangements to have four family members who were sick assessed at the hospital” in isolated rooms.

Monday, March 10: The X-rays showed that three out of four family members had signs of pneumonia. They remained hospitalized, and the doctor treating them suspected TB and ordered them to wear masks so they wouldn’t spread it.

That day, Patient 8 returned to the hospital with a fever. “More importantly,” said Low, “his wife came with him. She sat out in the waiting room and she was unwell. Not a lot of attention was paid to her.” She infected some of the other people in the waiting room. The hospital was eventually closed to contain the virus.

Patient 8 was moved to cardiology, where he infected unknowing doctors and nurses. One of the doctors transferred him to York Central Hospital, where the virus spread still further.

Wednesday, March 12: The disease now called SARS was taking such a severe toll in Hong Kong, southern China and Vietnam that the World Health Organization issued a worldwide alert: “Until more is known about the cause of these outbreaks, WHO recommends patients with atypical pneumonia who may be related to these outbreaks be isolated.”

But doctors in Toronto still did not connect Tse to what was happening in Asia. “The pieces of the puzzle were not filling in here,” Henry said. “This man had not traveled in many years out of Canada. This was a man whose mother had died at home, at the time thought to have died of a heart attack.”

James Young, Ontario’s commissioner of public security, said Toronto had bad luck. “Unfortunately for us, it was described one day on the Internet, and the next day it showed up in the hospital. Even if we read it on the Internet and asked [Tse], ‘Had you traveled?’ his answer would have been no. It was detective work by public health that figured that out.”

The other bad luck for Toronto, Young said, was that Tse was highly contagious. “He was a super spreader.”

Thursday, March 13: Tse, Patient 2, died. By now, public health officials were beginning to suspect his death was connected to the atypical pneumonia outbreak in Asia. Interviews with the family offered the first sign that his mother had just returned from Hong Kong.

“At that time, our primary concern was people who had contact with the young man and mother before her death who might be out in the community,” Henry said.

Medical detectives fanned out across the city, carefully interviewing people who were possibly caught in the web of the spreading virus. What had they done in the previous 10 days? Who had they lunched with?

Friday, March 14: Henry met with one of the Kwans who had been hospitalized on March 9, the daughter of Patient 1, to find out who had attended her mother’s funeral.

“I spent several hours Friday afternoon with her in ICU trying to piece together what had happened over the previous 10 days with her mother and brother,” Henry said. When Henry realized they might not be able to get all the names of the people who had contacted the family and who were at the funeral, she asked the daughter whether officials could release her mother’s name to the public. That would serve to warn anyone listening to radio or watching television that they may have been in contact with a new infectious agent. The woman, designated Patient 3, agreed.

“She is a heroic woman,” Henry said.

Public health officials held a news conference asking anyone who had contact with Kwan or her son to call a hotline.

Saturday, March 15: One of the first calls was from a doctor who had treated a member of the Kwan family. The doctor, a 37-year-old woman, would be identified as Patient 7. “The family doctor was admitted,” Low said, and soon other health care workers were reporting illness.

“It was that morning when a nurse just happened to mention to me she was somebody who never gets sick. She walked by me and said, ‘I had a temperature last night when I was on duty.’ She played it down, not realizing the significance of that,” Low said.

There were several doctors who had seen members of Kwan’s family. One of them, public health detectives discovered, was on a cruise with his wife, who was also his secretary. The doctor covering his practice had no idea where he had gone and didn’t have keys to his office.

Desperate to alert the doctor, health investigators tracked down a building manager, then a part-time secretary, then the doctor’s brother. But no one could produce keys to the office.

“We were very concerned about getting in contact with patients who had been in the office when this person had been there sick,” Henry said. “So we made arrangements with the brother and the part-time secretary and the building manager to break into the building.”

Soon it was clear that the investigators had made a start -- but the crisis was not yet over. The microbe was still moving ahead of them.

It took three more weeks, 246 more cases and 20 more deaths before, on April 29, WHO decided that the danger here had passed and lifted a week-old advisory against travel to Toronto.