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Writing and Reporting by Jenna Duncan

Archive for March 2011

Westford to destroy school food from suspect facility

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Published on March 31, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B2

Nearly $10,000 worth of food and supplies owned by Westford public schools must be thrown away because the town’s Board of Health found the conditions substandard at the facility where the goods were stored, officials said.

The district has used a warehouse on Town Farm Road for about 35 years to store frozen food and dry goods, such as boxes of Styrofoam trays, Superintendent Everett Olsen said.

The town’s director of health care services, Sandy Collins, said that when the Board of Health inspected the property, it found three major violations. She declined to say exactly what the violations were, but said they involved sanitary conditions, the security of the building, and the food’s rotation schedule.

“Because of the conditions and some of the issues the board was grappling with, they made the determination to just have all of the product destroyed to make sure with 100 percent certainty the public safety is protected,” Collins said.

Frozen foods will now be delivered directly to the schools, Olsen said, and the dry goods will be stored in his own office. He said he and other district officials will work closely with the Board of Health to rectify the situation.

“We want to maintain the confidence of parents,” Olsen said. “We have an excellent school system in Westford, and the last thing I will ever do as superintendent is jeopardize the health and safety of our students and staff.”

The violations were discovered after about 70 students at Blanchard Middle School were absent because of a stomach virus about two weeks ago, Olsen said. The school nurse called the Health Department, which looked into the matter.

Collins said her department spoke with several doctors in the area and looked at other schools to see if the outbreak was affecting only Westford. They inspected the food service at the middle school and the storage facility.

While the investigation found health violations at the facility, she said, it found no link between the violations and the illnesses.

In coming days, the Board of Health will supervise the disposal of the goods and work closely with the district to maintain health standards.

“They’re being very cooperative, and they’re trying to give us as much information as possible,” Collins said. “There are no issues going forward.”

Written by jdunccc

March 31, 2011 at 9:02 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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In reverse, US issues Afghan activist a visa

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Published on March, 25, 2011 on page B13 of The Boston Globe

The US State Department said yesterday that it has granted Afghan activist Malalai Joya a visa to come to the United States on a three-week speaking tour, reversing an earlier decision denying her entry to the country and clearing the way for engagements in Massachusetts.

The announcement came after a petition and flurry of letters from supporters, members of Congress, and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused the Obama administration of barring Joya because she has been critical of the war in Afghanistan and the country’s US-backed government. She is now expected to speak tonight at Harvard, joining Noam Chomsky at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard.

“We hope the decision to grant a visa to Ms. Joya is a signal that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement.

Joya’s supporters said she was denied entry a week ago. She was told by a consular officer that she was denied because she was unemployed and “lived underground,” said Sonali Kolhatkar, codirector of the Afghan Women’s Mission in Los Angeles, which has organized several US tours for Joya. Kolhatkar said that her situation has been the same for several years and had not prevented her from entering the country previously.

“We are ecstatic and gratified that the government finally did the right thing and allowed Malalai Joya into the country so that Americans could hear what she has to say about the reality of the war, and particularly how Afghan women are faring under the occupation,” Kolhatkar said in a statement.

Joya was forced into hiding after assassination attempts because of her political views. At 26, she was the youngest woman elected in the Afghan Parliament.

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March 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

Parents of Haiti quake victim continue push for orphanage

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Posted on March 22, 2011 in The Boston Globe Metro Desk Blog

Len and Cherylann Gengel, parents of a college student killed in the Haiti earthquake last year, spoke to Suffolk University students and staff today about their campaign to open an orphanage in their daughter’s memory, saying they expected it would open sometime next year.

In January 2010, Britney Gengel, 19, was killed in the earthquake. Her parents have taken on her dream of building an orphanage – the last wish she expressed to her parents.

The mother said the parents felt “so blessed” that their daughter’s last text had left them with that mission, said Greg Gatlin, a university spokesman who attended the event.

The parents announced the orphanage’s opening date and shared a video tribute to Britney showing both her family life and her time in Haiti.

“I think they really spoke to Brit’s passion for the people of Haiti, particularly the children,” said Gatlin.

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March 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Second person arrested in puzzling puppy theft

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Published on March 21, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

A second person was arrested today in Worcester in connection with the puzzling theft of puppies last week from a Sterling animal shelter, officials said.

Jose L. Figueroa, 22, of Worcester, was arraigned in Worcester Central District Court on four counts of receiving stolen property valued at more than $250, Worcester district attorney’s spokesman Tim Connolly said.

Figueroa’s bail was also revoked on a case from last year in which he was charged with intimidating a witness, said Connolly.

Worcester police arrested Sylvia Ortiz, 22 of Worcester, last week in connection with the same case, police said in a statement. She faces three counts of receiving stolen property.

Connolly didn’t know whether Figueroa and Ortiz were connected. Worcester police didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, as the weather worsened today, concern was mounting at the Sterling Animal Shelter because two of the nine puppies stolen overnight Wednesday still haven’t been recovered, said Leigh Grady, the shelter’s executive director.

“It’s pretty much a dire situation right now,” she said. “They can’t survive with weather like this.”

Grady and others spent the weekend searching for the remaining two after seven were returned last week, she said. The shelter received tips that the puppies were spotted in the Great Brook Valley area of nearby Worcester, but searchers couldn’t find them.

At least two of the seven that have been recovered were found wandering outside in Worcester, one near a school and the other on railroad tracks.

“We’re just praying somehow, some way we’ll get these guys back,” Grady said.

Five of the returned puppies have been sent to their adoptive homes. Two remain under veterinary care but should be able to go to their adopted families this week, she said.

Written by jdunccc

March 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Laurine Phelan, devoted mother, at 95; devoted homemaker

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Published on March 19, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B10

Laurine Phelan never had a driver’s license. In her hometown of Bristol, Conn., there was no need – her home was a quick walk from her church and the bakery, and later she moved just one street from her parents’ home to raise a family of her own.

Mrs. Phelan, a devoted mother and wife, died March 8 at St. Patrick’s Manor in Framingham after a period of declining health. She was 95.

Born Laurine Cawley, she was baptized in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bristol and attended grade school at the church before attending Bristol High School.

“It was a great life. It was a fantastic town to grow up in,” said her son Kevin, of Wellesley.

She attended Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., graduating in 1937 with an associate’s degree. She then worked at Bristol Bank and Trust as a teller until she married Hubert Phelan when she was 27. They wed in the church in which she had been baptized.

The pair moved out West for a few years before returning to Bristol, to reside one street away from her parents. Mrs. Phelan stayed home, raising the couple’s three children.

“She was a great mother in the sense that she led by example, not by noise,” her son said.

Mrs. Phelan also gave back to the community, working with the Bristol Girls Club and serving on the local branch of the Visiting Nurses Board.

Her husband died in 1995, and about seven years ago, Mrs. Phelan moved to Framingham to be closer to her children, five of her grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. “It was a great thing for her later in life that she met all the [grand]kids,” her son said.

Besides her son Kevin, Mrs. Phelan leaves another son, Brian, of Wayland; and a daughter, Patricia, of Wellesley.

Services have been held.

Written by jdunccc

March 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Posted in The Boston Globe

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Producer at Globe lauded for TV work

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Published on March 19, 2011 in The Boston Globe, Page B4

For the third consecutive year, Darren Durlach has been named the Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association for his work while at WBFF-TV in Baltimore.

Durlach, who is now a senior multimedia producer at The Boston Globe, is the second person to win the award three consecutive times.

“The spot news entries were crisp, and the features drew us in and made us want to meet the subjects ourselves,” contest judge Darren Brown said on NPPA’s website, of Durlach’s work. “Storytelling at its finest. Nicely done.”

The news was announced yesterday while Durlach was teaching at the NPPA NewsVideo Workshop at the University of Oklahoma and was unexpected, he said. Merry Murray, who chaired the contest, came on stage at the workshop and asked Durlach to call the new winner, to “pass the torch.”

“She dialed the number and I thought to myself, my mom always calls me at the worst times, because my phone started going off,” he said. “They started shooting confetti and it was a really, really fun way to find out.”

His current boss, Thea Breite, senior multimedia editor for video at the Globe, said the award was a confirmation of his high quality of work.

“It’s a really big honor for him, and that he won it three times in a row, that is no accident,” she said. “He’s a really gifted video storyteller, and he also is just a wonderful guy to work with.”

The award adds to Durlach’s collection that already includes 11 Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and several honors from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists.

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March 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Posted in The Boston Globe

4 of 9 pups taken in Sterling returned Shelter receives anonymous tip

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Published on March 18, 2011 in The Boston Globe, Page B2

Leigh Grady knew something was wrong when she came to work yesterday.

The normally rowdy animals in the Sterling Animal Shelter were relatively quiet, “like they knew something was going on, and they were traumatized,” she said.

Grady, the shelter’s executive director, said the shelter’s side door had been kicked off the hinge, five of the kennel doors had been opened, and nine puppies were taken.

Police are investigating the theft of a variety of mixed breeds from four litters, ranging in age from 10 to 14 weeks.

Jennifer Wooliscroft, a spokesman for the Animal Rescue League, said last night that four of the dogs have been returned, thanks to an anonymous tip.

Staff at the shelter are particularly concerned because all of the puppies were spayed or neutered on Wednesday and are in need of medication. Grady personally offered a $1,000 reward for their return – no questions asked.

“We just want to make sure they’re OK,” she said. “We’re all pretty upset and devastated.”

Police took photographs and dusted for fingerprints at the shelter.

Police Chief Gary Chamberland said the department’s best lead is a stolen vehicle that had been abandoned in the area.

Police have reached out to nearby police departments and animal control units, asking to keep an eye out for the dogs.

“I’ve never seen this number of dogs taken from a shelter,” said Chamberland. “I would say it’s kind of unusual.”

Additionally, a Saber Alert was sent out yesterday, informing animal control officers and animal care professionals across the state of the missing dogs, an official from the Animal Rescue League of Boston said.

Lieutenant Alan Borgal, director of the center for animal protection at the Animal Rescue League, said he had not seen a puppy theft of this magnitude in a while. He said more thefts happen at pet shops, and people tend to only take one or two dogs.

“I think it’s very sad that these were young dogs, and I think the only market is to sell these on the street or go out of the state,” said Borgal, who has also notified New Hampshire authorities.

The shelter received the puppies from other rescue groups in Tennessee and Virginia, where they were either picked up as strays, left at a shelter, or were at a kill shelter where they could have been euthanized.

Anyone with information on the puppies still missing is urged to call the Sterling Animal Shelter at 978-422-8585 or Sterling Police at 978-422-7331.

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March 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Posted in The Boston Globe

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Six of nine puppies returned after mysterious theft

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Published on March 18, 2011 in The Boston Globe Metro Desk Blog

Six of the nine puppies stolen from Sterling Animal Shelter overnight Wednesday, in a mystery that had baffled police, have been returned, the shelter’s executive director, Leigh Grady, said today.

Four puppies were recovered last night after police, acting on a tip, went to an apartment complex in Worcester, where they found three in one apartment and one at a neighbor’s apartment.

Sterling Police Chief Gary Chamberland said an arrest was made in Worcester in connection with the events, though he did not know any further details. A Worcester police spokesman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

This morning a man returned a dog directly to the shelter after claiming he found it near some train tracks. Grady said the return seemed suspicious to her, because her staff thought they recognized the man as someone who had been at the shelter the day before the puppies went missing.

“It’s quite strange – he didn’t ask about the reward,” she said. “My staff that was here on that day said that they are 99.9 percent sure that he was here.” The shelter had offered a $1,000 reward for the dogs.

Also this morning, a sixth puppy was recovered outside of a Worcester school, Grady said. The daughter of one of Grady’s friends, who also works in animal rescue, got out of the car to enter the school this morning and heard crying. The girl found the puppy underneath the vehicle.

“The whole thing is pretty shady,” said Grady. “It seems like they took them and are splitting them up, trying to hide them.”

The puppies that have been returned were unharmed but seemed skittish after the events. Currently, the staff is worried about the three puppies that are still missing, and hope they get home soon, Grady said.

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March 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Randolph man charged with impersonating an officer

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Published on March 18, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

A 43-year-old Randolph man was arraigned today in Quincy District Court for allegedly impersonating a police officer Thursday in Randolph, officials said.

Poorandeo Singh pleaded not guilty to numerous charges, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle, impersonating police, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, failure to stop for police, and possessing an open container of alcohol, said David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey.

When Singh was pulled over by officials Thursday on North Street, they found he had items consistent with impersonating police, including lights installed in his car that mimicked those in emergency vehicles, prosecutors said.

It was not the first time Singh has been charged with such offenses. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to owning police-style lights and larceny for attempting to steal an official plate from a police vehicle, said Traub.

He was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 cash bail, ordered to surrender any weapons, and is not allowed contact with any witnesses. He will return to court for a pre-trial hearing on April 14.

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March 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Young Acton woman survived tsunami in hardest-hit area of Japan

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Published on March 17, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

A 22-year-old Acton resident has left the Japanese town where she narrowly escaped the tsunami to travel to a nearby city, where she hopes to find better shelter, her anxious mother says.

Caitlin Churchill, who was in Japan to teach English, was able to outrun the waves that swept up some of her students and co-workers and killed her supervisor, in the village of Minamisanriku, said her mother, Sharon Cassidy. Minamisanriku was perhaps the hardest-hit town in Japan, with as many as 10,000 people swallowed by the sea.

Churchill earlier this week told the dramatic story of her escape to an Associated Press correspondent who was on the ground in Japan.

Churchill spent the night in the forest after escaping the massive wave, her mother said Wednesday. Since then, Churchill has been staying at a shelter where there is no heat, no electricity, and limited food and blankets. So Churchill and two other English teachers have decided to try to travel to the nearby city of Sendai, hoping for better shelter.

Cassidy spent some tense days after the tsunami hit. Minamisanriku has made headlines, with networks broadcasting video showing the giant wave destroying the town. But through NBC-TV’s Today Show, Cassidy was able to reestablish contact with Caitlin via an NBC satellite phone at about 3 a.m. Monday.

Since then, Cassidy said, she has been in and out of contact with Churchill via her cellphone. But Cassidy believes her daughter’s cellphone battery has now died.

Cassidy said that the family is “kind of in limbo” because Churchill is still trying to honor her obligation to the teaching program, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

“She could disregard that and flee but she doesn’t think that she should. … My fantasy is we rent a plane and go get her, but it’s not that easy,” Cassidy said.

Written by jdunccc

March 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

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