Kenosha News

Almost every weekday without fail, early morning customers at McDonald’s, 3926 52nd St., are greeted by the indefatigable Diane Johnson.

Johnson is 76 years old and has never once called in sick during her 25 years at the restaurant.

“I love working here. I love the people,” she said. “It keeps me busy.”

Johnson is not just a warm body at the drive-thru window. Judging by customer calls and comments, she’s the most beloved employee at that location, said manager Jennifer Desotell.

“She’s amazing. She has the most customer compliments of anyone,” Desotell said.

Johnson typically handles 600-plus cars during her daily five-hour stint at the window. That’s one car every 30 seconds, and everyone gets a smile.

Every regular gets greeted by name, is asked if they’re having their regular order (which Johnson remembers) and is often asked about their children and grandchildren.

“People come back because of her,” Desotell said.

When customer Brad Preston started dating the woman who would become his wife, he learned that she, too, was one of Johnson’s regular customers. They delighted Johnson by starting to ride through the drive-thru together, and eventually invited her to their wedding.

“She’s always happy,” Preston said. “She always remembers you.”

Another regular customer, Carol Buzza, said she can tell whether Johnson’s working the window by the length of the line. Buzza feels so strongly about Johnson that she invited a friend to attend Johnson’s 25th work anniversary party so the friend could see what all the fuss was about.

“I think Diane is an amazing lady,” said Buzza.

Johnson once surprised Buzza with a birthday card, presented through the drive-thru window.

“Ten to five in the morning, and I’m handed a birthday card,” Buzza said. “She brought a tear to my eye.”

Buzza even invited state Sen. Bob Wirch to Johnson’s 25th anniversary party.

“We’re in the over-70 club together,” said Wirch, his arm thrown around Johnson and a big smile on both their faces. “And she has a fantastic work ethic!”

Big family

Johnson’s incredible work ethic was not lost on her children, 17 of whom are still alive and working in management, medicine, construction and education.

“A lot of my employees can’t make it through a 40-hour work week without calling in sick,” said son Tyrone Johnson, who works in management at Goodwill. “She’s never called in sick once in 25 years. Words cannot describe the impact she has had on our family.”

Johnson was born in Evanston and moved to Kenosha in 1967 with her husband, Luddie, and the eight children they had at the time. She had another 10 children while she was here . Her “baby” is 37 and her oldest is 61. She also has 36 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

“She is the best mom in the world,” said Raymond Johnson, who works in Kenosha as a carpenter.

“I learned compassion from her and apply it to my job,” said son Leo Johnson, who works as a nurse in Green Bay. “She’s very smart, she’s very loving.”

Good job

Johnson can’t imagine working anywhere but McDonald’s, which she said is an excellent place for first-time workers to learn the fundamentals of holding down a job.

“Being on time, being present and loyal to your team members who come to depend on you, being detail-oriented to handle multiple tasks, and being able to humbly receive direction from superiors,” she said.

Many 76-year-olds might be considering retirement, but Johnson plans to keep working as long as she’s able.

She said she’s also a busy bee outside McDonald’s, visiting seniors at a local nursing home and walking the track at the YMCA several days a week.

She said she doesn’t knit or quilt, because those hobbies would require her to sit down.

“I work in my garden, I love everything that comes up. I can and freeze,” she said. “I don’t sit down when I get home.”

Amazon to Build a Family Shelter for Mary’s Place Within its Seattle HQ

Amazon to Build a Permanent Mary’s Place Family Shelter Within its Seattle Headquarters

May 10, 2017

Mary’s Place announced today that Amazon will donate more than 47,000 sq. ft. of space within Amazon’s newest headquarters building as a permanent location for a Mary’s Place Family Shelter. This first-of-its-kind partnership will include 65 rooms, which will shelter more than 200 homeless women, children, and families each night.

“To have a permanent downtown Seattle location within Amazon is a game-changer for Mary’s Place and the families we serve,” said Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary’s Place. “We’ve loved being Amazon’s neighbor, and now the opportunity to move into their headquarters permanently is truly a dream come true. This unique, first-of-its-kind shelter will remind families that they matter and that their community wants to help them succeed.”

“Mary’s Place does incredible, life-saving work every day for women, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the Seattle community,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “We are lucky to count them as neighbors and thrilled to offer them a permanent home within our downtown Seattle headquarters – Amazon employees and Mary’s Place residents will move in together in early 2020.”

John Schoettler from Amazon and Marty Hartman from Mary's Place

In April 2016, Amazon provided Mary’s Place with temporary use of a vacant building on its growing urban campus – a former Travelodge hotel. Amazon upgraded and decorated the building and included utilities for more than 200 family members while awaiting construction of a new building. Construction at 2213 8th Ave is scheduled to begin in the fall, and Amazon will work with Mary’s Place to temporarily move the families to another former hotel across the street as it builds this new, permanent home.

The new Mary’s Place shelter will include a family resource center similar to those at Mary’s Place Family Centers in North Seattle and White Center where more than 40 local nonprofits and teams of community and corporate volunteers join Mary’s Place staff onsite to provide services and work with families to help them secure permanent housing and employment.

Amazon employees are frequent visitors and volunteers at the existing shelter – bringing meals, organizing arts and crafts projects, throwing parties for the families, and more. By sharing permanent space with Mary’s Place, Amazon employees will now have even more opportunities to volunteer and support the organization and the families they serve.

Back to Amazon Blog

This Doctor Saved a Thousand ISIS Slaves

The Iraqi women who escaped from ISIS had their sights set on a new life in Germany. Where that was, they weren’t sure, but it was far away, they heard, and Dr. Mirza would take them there.

His name was invoked all around the city of Duhok, in northern Iraq, from the dusty camps to the unfinished concrete houses where survivors had been sheltering since escaping bondage at the hands of ISIS fighters.

None of the women—who were spirited to safety by smugglers or who daringly ran from their ISIS captors on their own—could explain how they were getting to Germany without money or passports, or who exactly Dr. Mirza even was. (“An important man,” one said. “A friend to the Yazidis,” said another.)

The women were all Yazidis, members of the religious minority that had borne the brunt of the ISIS rampage in the summer of 2014, with the militants massacring thousands of men and taking thousands more women and children as slaves. Now, after escaping death and captivity, they were hoping that the man known simply to them as Dr. Mirza might fly them from this stark brown landscape, which they had never left, and to a new continent where ISIS could never harm them again.

Over the course of nearly a year, beginning in March 2015, Mirza Dinnayi—a soft-spoken and bespectacled Yazidi activist and humanitarian—did just that.

By early last year, Dinnayi had quietly helped track down, vet, and transport more than 1,000 survivors of ISIS captivity—mostly women, who had been kept as sex slaves, and their children—to Germany. The unprecedented rescue and asylum program was born of an unprecedented crisis: the genocide of the Yazidis at the hands of ISIS.

The details of that summertime attack on civilians in Iraq’s remote Sinjar region are now well-known. Survivors have told and retold the story of how the notorious jihadists, then at their prime, marched Yazidi men off to the slaughter before busing some 5,000 other civilians—most of them women and children—to ISIS slave markets, where they were bartered and sold.

Days after the violence began, President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the start of the U.S. war on the militants that continues today. But even as the U.S. and its allies mobilized to take on the jihadists, Dinnayi understood that the scale of the crisis was beyond anything that could be solved by military support alone.

A Yazidi himself, he had moved to Germany in 1994 to escape persecution and study medicine. At the time, the Yazidis had been suffering persecution for years at the hands of the Saddam Hussein regime. When, after Hussein was toppled, Dinnayi returned to Iraq to advise the country’s then-president, he quickly saw his hopes for a new era fade.

Extremists were targeting the Yazidis in attacks, and in 2007 ISIS’s predecessors killed hundreds of Yazidis in a coordinated bombing, the deadliest attack on civilians in the Iraq War. So he co-founded a nonprofit that flies Iraqi victims of terrorism to Germany for medical treatment. The 2014 ISIS attack convinced him that the Yazidis, who number around 600,000 in Iraq, could no longer survive in their homeland. They needed asylum.

Dinnayi delivered this message to anyone he could. Even after breaking his leg in a helicopter crash during a mission to rescue civilians fleeing ISIS’s advance, he appeared on television in a wheelchair to repeat his demands: more aid, more military support, genocide recognition and, critically, some sort of asylum for survivors in Europe or the United States.

His leg in a cast, Dinnayi took his message to Israel, Switzerland, and throughout Germany. Waves of other Yazidis had also migrated to Germany over the years, making it home to more Yazidis than anywhere in the world outside of Iraq. “The whole Yazidi community in Germany was very active in encouraging the German government to do something,” he said over a coffee at an Istanbul airport during one of his regular layovers last year.

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He credits the country’s largest Yazidi organization, the Central Council of Yazidis, for finally finding one politician willing to help.

Winfried Kretschmann, who heads the wealthy German state of Baden-Württemberg, decided to open its doors. “He is a very human man,” Dinnayi said. “He saw [what was happening] and said, ‘We should do something for these people.’”

No state in Germany had ever run its own refugee program, and it wasn’t clear if it was legal. “There was an option for [a state-run humanitarian program] in the German law, but it had never been used,” said Dr. Michael Blume, the head of Baden-Württemberg’s department of churches, religion and integration, whom Kretschmann asked to lead the project. Eventually, he said, federal authorities told the state it could “give it a try.”

Despite creeping anti-refugee sentiment, the shock of ISIS’ systematic sexual violence evoked a deep emotional response across Germany’s political spectrum. Blume said he encountered no resistance to the rescue program when he began discussing it with local leaders and quietly assembling a team.

Blume brought on Dinnayi to handle recruitment in Iraq and also tapped a Kurdish-German psychologist, Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, an expert in trauma and Middle Eastern cultures.

They quickly agreed to focus on psychotherapy and rehabilitation. “It wouldn’t make sense to bring traumatized people here and then not help them psychologically or medically,” Blume said.

By the time the team began to hash out details of the pilot program in late 2014, a steady stream of Yazidis had escaped captivity in precarious physical and psychological shape. Some had become pregnant as the result of rape. Others were so distraught by what they had suffered that they committed suicide. Blume and his colleagues feared that the longer the victims went without treatment, the more likely they’d be to lose their lives.

“The Yazidis told us nobody can help them. There were just too many [victims] and only about 25 psychologists in northern Iraq,” Blume said. “The initial goal was to evacuate and stabilize those that wouldn’t survive on their own.”

The state set aside 95 million euros, less than 1 percent of its annual budget, to cover the cost of selecting, processing, and transporting 1,000 survivors to Germany and providing two years of care and therapy for them after they arrived.

Once in Baden-Württemberg, the participants would receive the same financial support as other refugees in the state, including a monthly stipend, housing, and free medical and psychological care. They would also be entitled to special privileges such as the right to travel abroad and even back to Iraq to visit family. And they would be eligible for permanent residency. “We wanted a mix between an emergency program, where you help people and then they go back, and a resettlement program, where they come and stay,” Blume explained, adding that his team wanted to empower participants to plot their own futures.

Over the next 15 months, Blume and his team divided their time between Germany, where they prepared for the group’s arrival, and Iraq, where they began the daunting process of selection.

To qualify for the program, Kizilhan had to conclude that, as a result of their captivity, candidates were suffering from a medical or psychological illness that could be better treated in Germany than in Iraq.

The team also decided that while they wouldn’t lie to the press, they wouldn’t go out of their way to publicize the operation, either. They feared for their own safety as well as the safety of the escapees, who might still be targeted by ISIS.

Yet back in Duhok, as Dinnayi opened an unmarked office and set out to find and fetch potential candidates, word quickly spread that Dr. Mirza was a man who could get you to Germany. With so much desperation in the region, it wasn’t long before the bribery offers began rolling in. Some people falsely claimed to be ISIS victims. “There were different ways that people tried to come into this project, but it was not successful, because we were very careful, and because the Yazidi community is very small,” Dinnayi said. “Everybody knows each other, so it is not easy to lie.”

Meanwhile, Kizilhan sat down with each of the 1,400 legitimate ISIS victims sent his way for a psychological evaluation that determined who could continue on to Germany.

It was dark work. Kizilhan said that although he has experience with rape victims from the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides, hearing the testimony of ISIS’s brutality took a unique toll on him.

“As a father of two girls, I was always asking myself how a human can do such cruelty,” he said. “Of course, as a psychologist and as a scientist, I have a lot of theories to explain why people become terrorists or how they can be so evil. But when you are sitting in front of an 8-year-old girl who is telling you she was raped, six, seven times a day for months, those theories are not really helpful to me, as a human.”

Among the cases he approved were the 8-year-old rape victim; six boys forced to serve as child soldiers; an 18-year-old who lifted giant stones in captivity to force a miscarriage after becoming pregnant as the result of rape; and a 16-year-old who developed psychosis and lit herself on fire weeks after escaping her tormentors. She believed that they were still pursuing her, even in the relative safety of her family’s tent, and wanted to make herself ugly so they would finally leave her alone.

The work took a toll on the other team members as well. Blume spent more than a third of the year away from his wife and young children, working about 16 hours a day, often agonizing over the question of who would be selected and who would be left behind. “That was the hardest part. I’ve never had a year that was so hard but also so meaningful,” he said.

Dinnayi, witness to the destruction of his own community, says that he too was traumatized by the work. “I couldn’t sleep in the beginning. I was crying several times a day when I was hearing the stories of the victims. They will stay with me for all my life,” he said. “When I remember some of their stories and I see their pictures in front of my eyes I say, ‘how could such things happen in the 21st century?’”

In the end, the team wound up approving 1,100 survivors—mostly Yazidis, but also some Christians. One thousand were settled in Baden-Württemberg, while the remaining 100 were divided between the states of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. The majority accepted to the pilot program were minors, and 96 percent of the entire group was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Actually getting the survivors to Germany was a bureaucratic feat, led by Dinnayi, who had to wrangle passports for each of them in a country that requires male relatives to be present when important documents are ordered or renewed. “About 90 percent of them lost their husbands and fathers,” Dinnayi said. “We needed the court to issue special certificates for mothers to say that the father isn’t here. It was very difficult.”

The team, with the help of the International Organization for Migration, also had to quietly get the group to the Erbil airport in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. They worried that ISIS fighters could doom the project if they managed to attack a convoy of escapees and warned participants not to share information about their locations on social media. “We worked closely with the Kurdish government and the Kurdish armed forces. We had armed Kurdish guards, we changed hotels, routes, license plates, and changed our internet devices so ISIS wouldn’t be able to track us,” Blume said. “The fear was that [ISIS] would see these women and children as their property and want to target them for that reason, but also because they were witnesses.”

On their way to the airport, Blume requested that each convoy stop in the valley of Lalish, a burst of green in the brown landscape that’s home to the most holy sanctuary in the Yazidi religion. Once there, he hoped Yazidi religious leaders would publicly bless the women and children to send a message to them—and to all Iraqis—that they hadn’t done anything wrong. “In the beginning, some were not even accepted by their own families because they were seen as defiled,” Blume said. “Our shared message was clear: The only ones that lost their honor were the attackers.”

On a hot May morning in 2015, Dinnayi and Blume were sweating in their suits as they ushered the latest batch of survivors from the lobby of a Duhok hotel onto a pair of coach buses idling outside. After a scenic hour-long ride, the buses deposited them in Lalish where the spiritual leader of the Yazidis—a white-bearded, white-robed man called Baba Sheikh—awaited them in a shaded courtyard at the arched entranceway to the ancient sanctuary.

The young women and teenaged girls, some ponytailed, and others wearing dark headscarves to mourn the loss of loved ones, crowded into the courtyard and strained their necks to catch a glimpse Baba Sheikh and record his message on their smart phones. “There are 120,000 Yazidis in Germany, so don’t feel like you are a stranger there,” he told them. “I will be praying for you when you go.”

Then the women and girls filed into the darkness of the sanctuary and prayed, methodically circling a sacred tomb and splashing themselves with spring water believed to have healing powers. Some giggled and posed for selfies.

The weight of their impending departure seemed to hit them only as they made their way back to the buses. All had to leave family behind. Sobbing into the arms of their loved ones, they said goodbye. As the buses wound out of the valley and on toward the airport, some reached their arms out the window to take photos. Others simply looked back on their families and ancestral homeland, possibly for the last time.

Three Reasons to Believe in China’s Renewable Energy Boom

View Images

A worker cleans a solar panel on top of a factory building in Baoding City. China is installing a soccer field’s worth of solar panels every hour.

Photograph by Sean Gallagher, National Geographic Creative

The squares of silicon are hardly thicker than sheets of paper, each about six inches by six, with narrow stripes of silver. They come into the factory by the thousands, stacked in cardboard boxes, and within hours, they’ll be ready to leave again.

The squares are solar cells, and in this plant two hours’ drive from Shanghai, workers in bright blue uniforms and white lab coats run the machines that assemble them, row by row, into more familiar-looking panels, ready to be installed on rooftops or in large arrays and begin turning sunlight into electricity.

Chinese manufacturing has changed the economics of renewable power around the world, making solar generation cost-competitive with electricity from fossil fuels like natural gas and even coal. It has brought change closer to home too, as China rolls out the world’s biggest investment in clean energy—motivated in part by a desire to ease the atrocious air pollution that kills an estimated 1.1 million of its people every year.

“The installation rates are absolutely mind-blowing,” says Lauri Myllyvirta, an energy and air pollution expert at Greenpeace in Beijing. China added 35 gigawatts of new solar generation in 2016 alone. “That’s almost equal to Germany’s total capacity, just in one year,” Myllyvirta says.

Every hour, China erects another wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field, according to Greenpeace estimates.

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Workers at a Jinko facility in Shangrao fabricate solar cells.

Photograph by Zhuo Zhongwei, Imaginechina via AP

Beyond Coal

After years of ignoring the air quality crisis that has resulted from decades of breakneck industrialization, China’s leaders have finally begun trying to solve it. And because coal is the source of an estimated 40 percent of the most dangerous pollution particles in the country’s air , finding alternatives to it has become a crucial priority. China aims to get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and it recently announced it would spend $360 billion on the effort in just the next three years.

In the Yangtze River Delta, a region known for its economic dynamism, Jinko Solar is one of the companies that has sprung up to meet that demand. It exports its solar equipment too, to the United States, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere. Last year, it produced panels with an electricity-generating capacity equivalent to about 10 typical coal-fired plants.

Here in Haining, the factory floor is clean and bright, and a low whoosh is the only noise as red, robotic arms lift and twist, moving the panels from one station to the next. Workers, some in white masks that cover their faces and heads, others sporting colored baseball-style caps, test and tweak as layer is added to layer and the parts are sealed together into ready-to-go modules, wires dangling from a small black box mounted on the back.

Air pollution isn’t the only reason China is so serious about renewables, but it’s a powerful one. And it was a big part of what put President Xi Jinping in a position to announce, in a landmark 2014 deal with President Obama, that China’s emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide would peak around 2030, a pledge that became the centerpiece of its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.

It appears now to be ahead of schedule in meeting that goal. Official figures can be unreliable, but they show that coal consumption, the main driver of China’s carbon emissions, fell in 2016 for the third straight year. And because China has clearly decided that cutting coal use—the fuel powers much of its heavy industry as well as providing electricity— is in its own interest, it’s a trend that’s likely to continue even as the United States, under President Trump, abandons Obama’s climate agenda.

Because China accounts for half the world’s coal consumption, that’s good news not just for the health of those who must breathe its air, but also for the wider effort to check runaway global warming.

“I think it’s fair to say that it wouldn’t have happened as fast and with as little resistance as it has if it hadn’t been for the air pollution motivation,” Myllyvirta says. “It’s really hard to argue against when you’re sitting in Beijing,” breathing its toxic air.

Kinks in the Grid

The renewables rollout has not been without its troubles. Vast fields of wind turbines have been erected in the country’s sparsely populated northwest, far from the big cities where electricity is most needed, and the construction of transmission lines to move all that power has failed to keep up.

“They set up these huge wind farms and they don’t have connections to the grid,” says Antung Liu of Indiana University Bloomington. “They just have this attitude that ‘We’ll build it, and hopefully we’ll be able to use it later.’”

What’s more, grid operators have shown a bias toward coal production, so renewable power has sometimes gone unused even when the physical connections are there. Greenpeace estimates that 19 percent of Chinese wind power was wasted in the first three quarters of last year.

Leaders are now starting to reckon with those issues, installing new power lines and focusing on building smaller wind and solar farms in populated areas.

Not far from Jinko’s factory, another arm of the company operates just such an array. Inside rows of long, low buildings, a new season’s crop of mushrooms are about to be planted. They don’t need sunlight, so the greenhouse roofs have been given over to solar panels. Nearly 19,000 of them, mounted in rows overhead, generate electricity that is fed into the grid.

At first, China’s effort “was only about getting the gigawatts up,” says Jukka-Pekka Mäkinen, CEO of The Switch, a Finland-based company manufacturing wind-power components in China. “Now it’s keeping up the gigawatts, but doing it much smarter, and focusing in areas where the consumption is.”

Despite such efforts, China is also still building coal-fired power plants, in part because of an incentive structure that encourages provincial officials to green-light unnecessary construction, even as the central government seeks to push cleaner options. But officials have also begun cancelling some that are already in the planning pipeline, aware that China already has more coal-fired power generation than it needs.

A Manufacturing Monster

It’s not just pollution that’s driving the determined focus on renewable power. Leaders have made clear that they view clean energy as a powerful engine for job creation.

“It’s about setting up for manufacturing dominance,” Liu says. “China sees green energy as an opportunity where it can become a manufacturing monster the way it has in clothes and toys.”

Whatever the motivation, the consequences of China’s clean energy buildup are already clear. Wealthier nations that once used China as an excuse for their own inaction are now watching it zoom past them to become a global climate leader.

“Everybody was saying ‘China didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement,’” the 1997 climate deal, Mäkinen recalls. “So what? They did more than everybody else put together.”

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting funded travel for this story.

Follow Beth Gardiner on Twitter.

 

Stressed about flying? This airport lets people play with adorable mini horses

If there’s two things we know for sure, it’s that traveling can be extremely stressful and adorable little animals brighten people’s days.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport also realizes this, so they’ve enlisted the help of Seven Oaks Farm — a non-profit organization in southwest Ohio— to bring miniature therapy horses to the airport to cheer up travelers.

Twice a month a few of the farm’s 34 horses make their way to the airport to connect with children and relieve the airport stresses of adults.

“It’s just to ease anxiety levels, put smiles on faces. Clearly that’s working,” the airport’s senior manager of customer relations, Wendi Orlando, told NPR. “When you look at the passengers walking by, it just never gets old. They love seeing the horses.”

The horses owner, Lisa Moad, told the publication the airport-goers absolutely adore the little animals. Some nervous travelers offer thanks for the animal interactions, sharing it provided them with “that little bit of support before they get on the plane.”

While therapy animals aren’t new on the travel scene — many airports like Newark welcome therapy dogs on occasion, and San Francisco International Airport has a tutu-wearing therapy pig — there is something especially delightful about seeing a horse indoors.

Just look at how thrilled this little girl is:

Girl+horse=happiness #kindnessmatters #therapyhorse #makingadifference #ittybittyhorses @cvgairport #travel

A post shared by Seven Oaks Farm Therapy Horses (@ittybittyhorses) on May 6, 2017 at 1:06pm PDT

When the miniature horses aren’t cheering up airports, you can find them visiting nursing homes, hospitals, police programs, and even lending some support to college students amidst stressful finals.

BRB booking a flight to Kentucky.

Mashable reached out to Seven Oaks Farm for comment.

IT expert who saved the world from ransomware virus is working with GCHQ to prevent repeat

The young cyber expert who saved the NHS from hackers is working with GCHQ to head off another attack, it has been claimed.

Marcus Hutchins has been credited with stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack from spreading across the globe by accidentally triggering a “kill switch”. 

The self-taught 22-year-old took just a few hours to stop the breach, which had already spread to more than 200,000 victims – including the NHS – across 150 countries.

First Dates’ alopecia sufferer Eve Betts hailed after removing wig onscreen

First Dates' alopecia sufferer hailed for her bravery after removing her wig onscreenViewers reckoned Eve looked better without her wig (Picture: Channel 4)

The latest instalment of First Dates left viewers a bit emotional after one participant revealed she suffers from alopecia – and wasted no time in revealing her bald head to her date.

Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace call for Dot Cotton to get her own EastEnders spin off

Tuesday night’s show saw beauty therapist Eve Betts initially greet dinner partner Jordan wearing a long dark wig – but soon went on to explain she had suffered from the condition, which causes hair loss, since she was three.

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Although she had never removed her wig on a date before, she was inspired to do so after Jordan explained he used to have a topknot.

First Dates' alopecia sufferer hailed for her bravery after removing her wig onscreenEve initially showed up for the date with long dark hair but soon removed it (Picture: Channel 4)

She went on to explain: ‘One of the main reasons I wanted to do beauty was I went through school, I was bullied and all that.

First Dates' alopecia sufferer hailed for her bravery after removing her wig onscreenThe beauty therapist revealed a tattoo on the side of her head (Picture: Channel 4)

‘I don’t remember ever feeling upset about it apart from now. It’s really hard’ – before explaining her parents had had to save up for her to have a decent wig and her dad ‘had to work really hard to draw my first set of eyebrows’.

Jordan reassured her that she looked great without the wig – describing her as ‘beautiful’ and ‘unique’.

And although they didn’t meet for a second date, she still won the admiration of viewers.

First Dates continues next Tuesday night on Channel 4 at 10pm.

MORE: First Dates hopeful admits his girlfriend left him for a woman after he shunned Tube proposal

MORE: Fuming First Dates viewers don’t believe bricklayer-turned-model Frankie was the real deal

D-day veteran becomes world’s oldest skydiver at 101 and 38 days

Verdun Hayes breaks record by completing tandem skydive with three generations of his family in Devon

A D-day veteran who jumped 15,000ft from a plane has become the oldest person in the world to skydive – at the age of 101 and 38 days.

Bryson William Verdun Hayes, known as Verdun, broke the world record on Sunday, completing a tandem skydive with three generations of his family at an airfield in Honiton, Devon.

As he touched down, the former Royal Signals lance corporal said “hooray” and added that he was feeling “absolutely over the moon” at completing the challenge.

The great-grandfather tried skydiving for the first time when he reached 100, but breaking the British record for the oldest skydiver was not enough for him.

Hayes, who said a parachute jump was something he had wanted to do since he turned 90 – but was talked out of it by his wife, who has since died – was determined to take the world record and beat its previous holder, Canadian Armand Gendreau who skydived in June 2013 aged 101 and three days.

Asked how he was feeling before Sunday’s jump, Hayes replied with a stoic “all right” and said he was looking forward to the experience.

He took to the skies with 10 members of his family at Skydive Buzz in Dunkeswell, all raising money for the Royal British Legion. The youngest skydiver was Stanley, 16, Hayes’ great-grandson, while his grandson Roger, 50, son Bryan, 74, and great-granddaughter Ellie, 21, were also among those who took the leap.

Hayes (left), with his family members before the jump

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Hayes (left), with his family members before the jump. Photograph: Skydive Buzz/PA

Ahead of the skydive, his daughter, Lin Tattersall, said: “He’s made up his own mind that he wants to do it again, and I am extremely proud of the reasoning behind it.”

Hayes, from Croyde, Devon, served in the army during the second world war and was presented with a Légion d’honneur for his heroic actions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and in Normandy, France.

He was named Verdun after his father, Joseph Hayes, who served in the first world war as a sapper with the Royal Engineers and who fought during the Battle of the Somme, wrote home to his pregnant wife, Mary, from the frontline suggesting they call their child Verdun after the 1916 battle.

Hayes served as a signaller and wireless operator for the Royal Signals during the second world war. He returned to Normandy in 2016 as a beneficiary of the Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Travel arm.

Hayes during his jump

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Hayes during his skydive, in which he became the oldest person in the world to jump 15,000ft from a plane. Photograph: Skydive Buzz/PA

During the war, Hayes sustained shrapnel injuries to his ribs and hands in an explosion that killed his friend, Sgt Edgar Robertson.

He said: “How I came home from world war two I do not know. I was so near to the edge of everything. I lost any amount of friends in no time at all really. I just didn’t think I would ever return home.”

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said Hayes would be celebrating with a glass of champagne.

He said: “We are very proud of Verdun’s achievements and his family’s support for the Royal British Legion and the money raised recognises the service and sacrifice made across all generations of the British armed forces.

“The money raised will help support individuals and families from across the generations of our armed forces community.”

Members of the family have separate online donation pages but Hayes, who hoped to raise £1,000, has already beaten his target and the current total on Virgin Money Giving stands at more than £1,600.

Born exposed to drugs, what chance did he have? One mom risked finding out

Born exposed to drugs, what chance did he have? One mom risked finding out

DeAnne DeCicco, 37, enjoys a rare, quiet moment with her son Enzo DeCicco, 4, before bedtime in their family home in Fort Myers n March 14, 2017. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times)

The boy was only two days old when his mother slipped out of the hospital. Hours later, he shuddered and convulsed, his body going into withdrawal from the opioids he had grown used to in her womb.

A couple from Georgia arrived. They had supported the baby’s biological mother financially during her pregnancy. But they didn’t know about the drugs. They watched him scream and wail for three hours. Then they left, too.

Those first few days, the baby had multiple seizures. Nurses peered at him from outside his incubator. They swaddled him tightly in a blanket and gave him morphine and methadone.

Social workers arrived. They saw the boy’s silky brown hair, his skin now bright red from crying. They’d seen so many babies like this struggling to live. All alone.

It was hard to find homes for the ones in drug withdrawal.

• • •

On Feb. 26, 2013, DeAnne DeCicco was at home in North Fort Myers, watching the Today show with a cup of coffee, contemplating a run, when the phone rang.

An adoption agent offered DeAnne and her husband, Bill, a mixed-race infant who had been exposed to multiple drugs. His previous adoption had fallen through. They had four hours to say yes or he would become a ward of the state.

He was six days old when a NICU nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital removed wires that measured his heart rate and seizure activity and lifted him into DeAnne’s arms. He seemed groggy, his eyes opening and closing intermittently. His head seemed so big.

DeAnne sobbed. She’d dreamed her whole life of this moment. It wasn’t what she’d envisioned growing up but it felt right.

Very few studies document what the future holds for babies exposed to opioids like heroin, oxycodone or methadone, but some develop physical and psychological problems.

DeAnne wanted a child so badly, she was willing to take the chance to find out.

• • •

They called him Enzo.

He had a severe case of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), an opiate withdrawal disorder that can impair everything from the central nervous system to the gastrointestinal tract. In the hospital, Enzo slowly developed just about every symptom of the condition.

He cried despairingly. He experienced tremors, breathing problems and continuous diarrhea. His muscles contracted and became noticeably toned. He had trouble sucking and lost weight. His limbs froze in place and he suffered multiple seizures from abnormal electrical signals in the brain.

Since 2000, the number of babies born in withdrawal has grown more than five-fold. This is largely because doctors have been more likely to prescribe opioids to pregnant women for pain, and more women have abused prescription drugs and turned to opioid-substitution programs for treatment, write researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

””

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Bill DeCicco, 66, encourages his son Enzo DeCicco, 4, to burn off energy on a trampoline they keep on the back porch of the family’s Fort Myers home on March 14, 2017.


 

In 2010, the same year prescription drugs claimed the lives of 2,700 Floridians, the state moved to shut down unregistered pain clinics and instituted a prescription drug monitoring program. Within two years, drug overdoses were cut in half, the first documented decline in any state during the previous decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the changes were slow to reach the babies. Between 2012 and 2015, about 6,000 babies were born with neonatal withdrawal in Florida alone, trailing the state’s prescription drug epidemic like a dark cloud.

Today, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, these babies are more likely to have been exposed to methadone than oxycodone, a sign that more pregnant women are in treatment, says Dr. Aaron Germain, director of the hospital’s neonatal abstinence task force.

The problem is worse when these mothers take other drugs on top of their prescribed medications.

This is likely what Enzo’s biological mother did, doctors told DeAnne and Bill.

On her hospital paperwork, Enzo’s biological mother had written that she was taking Suboxone, which is an opioid medication prescribed by doctors for addiction. It is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, semi-synthetic opioids that stall the cravings but do not deliver the high.

So she had wanted to quit and had even gone for drug treatment. But somewhere along the way, she’d failed and taken other drugs, too.

• • •

For 25 days, DeAnne and Bill sat by their child’s hospital bedside as he convulsed and vomited and screamed.

””

[DeCicco family photo]

Enzo DeCicco recovers during one of his hospital stays.

 

They thought that perhaps raising a child struggling with the effects of drug addiction was something they could handle better than most.

“A lot of people don’t want to take it on because there are a lot of unknowns,” DeAnne said. “It wasn’t a deterrent to us. If anyone was able to cope, we were.”

DeAnne, a hair stylist and a marathon runner, is 37, vivacious, petite and lithe with a black pixie cut, sort of like a female Peter Pan. Bill, who once owned a car dealership, is thin, muscular and reserved, 29 years older than DeAnne. They are both originally from Brooklyn and had met at church and the gym. Neither had any children.

They had both experienced the pain and frustration of living with someone else’s drug abuse. Bill’s first wife died of an overdose. DeAnne left a previous marriage because of it.

But they were ill-prepared for what they witnessed.

Babies with neonatal withdrawal usually lose up to half their weight in the first weeks because they can’t coordinate the suck and swallow motion to get nutrition.

At birth, Enzo weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and measured 21 inches long. His biological parents were big, too. On her hospital paperwork, his mother, who was 27 and white, wrote that she was 5-foot-10. For his father, she had written: “6-foot-5 Jamaican.”

Within days, Enzo dropped to less than 5 pounds. Sometimes, his seizures came once an hour. The machines beeped and buzzed.

“It was the saddest thing I ever saw,” DeAnne said.

The nurses called Enzo’s tremors “episodes.” They encouraged the new parents to remain calm. That would help Enzo stay calm.

Just before they took him home, the DeCiccos received a visitor. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care was starting a developmental follow-up program for children with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Doctors would evaluate him at regular intervals until age 5. The evaluations were free, the money coming from an anonymous donor.

Did the new parents want to enroll Enzo?

• • •

Those first few months at home in North Fort Myers, Enzo still had seizures and he could barely move his stiff arms and legs. But they could see there was a sweet little boy inside.

Bill and DeAnne wanted to give Enzo the best chance in life, but they had little idea what that meant.

””

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Enzo DeCicco, 4, has high-energy sessions with pediatric occupational therapist Karen Fiegland, OTR/L, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care in Fort Myers. This photo was taken during a session on Feb. 20, 2017.


 

The FDA has categorized methadone and most other opioids as Pregnancy Category C5 drugs, meaning there are not enough long-term studies on its effects. The National Institutes of Health has recommended “medication assistance” as the standard of care for pregnant women addicted to opioids. Doctors believe that prescribing it to pregnant mothers is better because it reduces high-risk behavior and leads to babies with a higher birth weight.

But far too many children born with neonatal withdrawal are growing into 3- and 4-year-olds who lag behind their peers — physically, academically and behaviorally, according to several studies. Some have vision and memory problems. One study of students born with neonatal withdrawal in Australia showed them well behind their peers academically by seventh grade, according to an article published in January in Pediatrics.

If it were a competition, these children would start at the back.

“This is a high-risk group of children and they need to be followed and watched,” said Dr. Tony Napolitano, chairman of pediatric medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and medical director of the neonatal withdrawal outreach program where Enzo receives treatment.

But these children, for the most part, are not being followed in any coordinated way across the state. The Florida Department of Children and Families does not even have numbers on children with neonatal abstinence syndrome in its care. A spokesman said the agency only began collecting the data in March.

Across the state, few children with neonatal withdrawal have access to a developmental follow-up program.

And this is what makes Enzo’s story unique. He is an example of what’s possible when a child with his condition receives lots of attention.

His therapy began at two months old, as physical therapists worked to liberate his arms and legs, which were stuck in place from all the shaking and tremors.

Every milestone became a challenge. Enzo toiled to roll over, to crawl, to stand up, to walk, which he didn’t do until he was 14 months old. He knuckled his feet and fell a lot.

Once one problem was solved, another popped up.

At age 2, Bill and DeAnne heard choking sounds through the monitor at night. A doctor ordered Enzo into a sleep study, which revealed that in one 24-hour period, he had 17 possible seizures, most of them undetectable. He had surgery to remove his tonsils. That helped another problem that he had lagged behind on, his ability to speak more than a mumble.

Like many children with neonatal withdrawal, Enzo was diagnosed with sensory input dysfunction, meaning his body struggled to sense and measure how much force he should apply. So whenever he drew with a crayon, it broke. He ran too fast and too hard. The sensory problem also affected how he read social cues. Sometimes he withdrew and cried; other times, he was boisterous and aggressive.

As new problems emerged, DeAnne and Bill responded. They arranged for him to see physical, speech and occupational therapists plus three additional tutors, one for academics, another for behavior and a third for his social interactions. Some weeks, he had six different people working with him on various aspects of his development. Several of the tutors were volunteers. His parents covered the rest, either out-of-pocket or with their insurance.

“We’ve done everything to give him the best chance to evolve out of this,” DeAnne said.

• • •

On a chilly Tuesday in January, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care Fort Myers, Enzo, now 4, tried to pick up a pair of scissors. Instead of threading two fingers through the handle, he stuffed three.

Karen Fiegland, an occupational therapist with white hair and small oval glasses, shook her head.

“No, put it down,” she said, “and put in two fingers.”

He repeated the mistake a second time. The third time, he got it.

””

[DeCicco family photo]

DeAnne DeCicco, 37, and Bill DeCicco, 66, pose together the day they first met their adopted son, Enzo DeCicco.

 

Enzo’s mother sat on the edge of the therapy room and watched, as she has for most of the past two-plus years, eagerly awaiting his smallest accomplishments.

Enzo’s initial physical delays have almost disappeared. But now he shows signs of cognitive delays, poor recall, difficulties with fine motor skills and behavioral problems. Children exposed to multiple drugs often exhibit more complications. He would have to work harder than most children.

Enzo’s progress became evident when his parents took him to gatherings of other children with neonatal withdrawal and their caregivers. They noticed the other children displayed some of the same symptoms as Enzo. Many had cognitive and physical delays. Others acted out aggressively. Enzo had already accomplished more than they ever hoped.

“He’s miles ahead of them because of the work we put in,” DeAnne said. “It’s sad because they are already behind the eight-ball.”

Fiegland had him lay the scissors down and pick them up again. He used three fingers.

“This is the way a 2-year-old does it,” Fiegland said, “but how old are you?”

“Four,” Enzo responded.

She’d taught him to put on his socks, to feed himself with a spoon, to take turns playing the game Operation. Sometimes he retained skills quickly. Other times, he forgot over and over. Each night, he played a memory game before bed, just for practice.

Fiegland told DeAnne she’d read a book that mentioned a study of children and how they react to their environments. The study found that vulnerable children who were not particularly resilient could succeed with good parenting. They were called “orchid children.”

“A dandelion can grow in any environment,” Fiegland said to Deanne, “but an orchid needs the right environment to grow.”

DeAnne smiled, putting her arm on her son’s shoulder.

“I’m going to think of him as an orchid,” she said.

• • •

On a breezy Tuesday in March, Enzo walked slowly across the wind-blown field to his soccer coach, who was surrounded by half a dozen 4-year-olds in orange T-shirts. Enzo reached his arms above his head to create his favorite animal, a dinosaur, and stomped his feet.

“Enzo, listen to the coach,” said his dad, from the edge of the field, where three generations of Enzo’s family sat watching him.

Then, just like that, Enzo suddenly threw himself down on the green grass, pouting. DeAnne called him and he ran over. “I don’t want to play soccer anymore,” he said wrapping his arms around her neck. “I want my Mommy.”

The game grinded to a halt as everyone waited. His father whispered encouragement in his ear. His mother hugged him, told him she loved him. “Let’s stop crying and pull ourselves together,” she said firmly.

“Your team needs you,” yelled his great-grandma.

The game had started. The other team had scored. Enzo hopped in, and proceeded to score eight goals in a row, including two for the other team.

“He’s going to be better than most in most sports,” his grandpa could be heard saying. “I can see him taking tennis lessons and doing very well.”

DeAnne knew the other parents were probably frustrated with Enzo, that he stood a full head above the other 4-year-olds on his team, that he could be overbearing and overwhelming. She tried to explain before they even asked about his background. She hoped they understood.

“He doesn’t reason the way other kids do,” she said. “It’s hard to watch because you know it’s something he can’t control.”

From the start, the DeCiccos decided never to medicate Enzo, even for seizures, unless absolutely necessary. He likely will need to go to a private school with aides to help him, DeAnne said.

“He has a lot of confidence,” she said, “and we don’t want to quash that.”

• • •

DeAnne watched Enzo race around the caged pool behind their home six times in a row, his blue leather sneakers slapping the pavers too hard. He sported a thatch of thick brown-blond hair and a red and white-striped hoodie. His delicate features were animated with laughter.

Enzo hopped up and down on the trampoline, rolled beneath it, then stood, upending the trampoline. His mother rushed over to sort it out, but Enzo was throwing over his Little Tikes basketball hoop. He pushed it hard, the industrial plastic scraping the brick pavers with a roar as he yelled: “It’s my rocket ship.”

This hyperactivity is common with children exposed to opioids in utero. Every day, Enzo would don a 7-pound vest and run around the tile porch, sometimes as much as 40 or 50 times a day. His energy level was so intense that if they were going to a restaurant, his mother stacked a dozen or so books in his blue wheelbarrow and had him pull it 15 times around the cul-de-sac outside their yellow stucco home. Still, he never tired.

””

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Enzo DeCicco, 4, runs to his mother DeAnne DeCicco, 37, after melting down on during soccer practice in Fort Myers on March 14, 2017.


 

Enzo left the basketball hoop behind and moved over to the counter, near his father, Bill, 66, just as he opened a can of pears and turned for a moment. Enzo grabbed at the can, cutting his finger. It was a deep gash but Enzo, who has an extremely high pain tolerance, did not seem to notice — until he started bleeding.

“Mommy, I don’t want it to be bleeding anymore,” he whined sadly, coming to the sink to let his mother wash off the blood.

DeAnne peeled open a Band-Aid.

It was hard to distinguish what was the normal 4-year-old and what were the remnants of the neonatal withdrawal. Enzo could be sweet and polite one minute, willful and irresponsible the next. He had run down the street to a friend’s without permission. Bill, the more stern parent, grounded him from watching TV and cartoons featuring his favorite character, Minnie Mouse, for a week for that one. His continued misbehavior dragged the punishment on for 34 days.

His mother said she was more “day to day.” She didn’t want him labeled a “behavioral problem” child. Her biggest worry, she said, is that he will grow up and be sad. “He’s so endearing and lovable,” she said. “He’s got this great little spirit and a really great heart and we don’t want to crush that.”

She caught him as he ran by and hugged him, delivering a kiss on his cheek.

“Mommy, Mommy, tell the Enzo story,” he said.

His parents looked at each other and smiled. They sat down on the gray leather couch in their living room with him between them.

Enzo wanted to hear his story at least three times a week.

DeAnne began: “Okay, so …”

“We got a phone call about a baby and it was me,” Enzo broke in with a big smile.

“Yes, and you were not in Mommy’s …”

“Belly,” said Enzo.

“But you were always in our …” DeAnne said.

“Hearts.” He didn’t ask questions yet. One day, she knew he would.

“Yes, and who brought us together?” DeAnne asked.

“Jesus,” Enzo responded. He sat on the floor now, his head leaning against her knee.

“That’s right, Jesus made us a family. We didn’t see him in the hospital because he’s in your heart.”

“I was in a bubble,” he said.

“That’s right,” DeAnne said. “You overcame a lot.”

Times senior researcher Caryn Baird and Times computer-assisted reporting specialist Connie Humburg contributed to this report. Contact Leonora LaPeter Anton at (727) 433-1446 or [email protected] Follow @WriterLeonora.

Brazil bus station workers open doors and hearts to homeless dogs

A Brazilian bus terminal is using some old equipment to make a new home for three stray dogs who were left out in the cold.

As winter approaches in Brazil, employees at the bus depot in Curbitiba took matters into their own hands to keep the canines warm.

The dogs can be seen sleeping in old tires and blankets in a Facebook post by local politician Fabiane Rosa.

“I never tire of praising the … volunteers who provide these angels, a warm bed in the cold, food every day, fresh water, security,” Rosa wrote on Facebook.

The dogs, Max, Pitoco and Zoinho, look happy as they are swaddled in warmth.

“Congratulations to the terminal staff, everyone understands that these angels are there and have a right to be. So many companies in Curitiba could follow this example, adopting a pet. Of course it is not the ideal, but at least there are those who are looking after them.”

She said she wants people to understand that “this world is not [the] privilege of humans, God created the animals to teach us to love without conditions.”

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Curitiba is located around 400 kilometres south of Sao Paulo.