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Firefighter gets 1.5m after losing hand

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Media caption‘One tiny wound cost me my whole hand’

A firefighter whose hand was amputated after he was injured by faulty cutting gear has received £1.5m in damages.

Ian McDonald, 37, was taking part in a training exercise in March 2014 when his hand was pierced by a high-pressure jet of hydraulic fluid.

He had 40 operations after the toxic liquid destroyed the tissue in his right hand but after a four-year battle doctors were forced to amputate.

The fire service said it had taken steps to prevent similar incidents.

Image caption Ian with his daughter Ava before the accident

Mr McDonald was injured during an exercise at Bishopbriggs fire station, in East Dunbartonshire, which was simulating rescuing a casualty from a car accident using hydraulic cutting equipment.

It was only later that day he noticed his hand starting to swell and he began to feel a burning sensation.

There was a small puncture wound through the side of his hand.

Image caption The fluid got into Ian’s hand through a small puncture wound

“One of my colleagues looked at the glove I had been wearing at the time and there was a hole straight through it,” Mr McDonald, who is from Bishopbriggs, said.

“This started alarm bells ringing that this was a serious consideration.”

He was taken to hospital and an X-ray showed oil inside his hand.

It later emerged the hose pipe connecting the generator to the cutting gear, which pumps an internal fluid up to 850 Bars of pressure, was riddled with tiny punctures which can appear over time after being dragged over broken glass or metal shards at the scene of an incident.

Image caption Ian McDonald said the past five years had been very difficult emotionally and physically

One of these punctures caused a fine jet of hydraulic fluid to escape and pierce Mr McDonald’s leather safety gloves.

Over the next four years, he was in chronic pain and suffering repeated infections as doctors battled to keep his hand working.

“The doctors were doing everything they could to save my hand but at one point I lost one of my fingers, then another finger.

“They were using grafts from my leg to save what they had but it became apparent during last year that it was just beyond repair.”

His hand was finally amputated in June 2018.

“It was a big thing but I didn’t really see there was any other route to go down,” he said.

“I’d already lost my hand by that point in a sense.

“When it was actually physically removed it was no great loss compared to what I’d already been going through.”

Image caption Ian with his four children and his wife Claire

In January, the father-of-four was fitted with a prosthetic hand which he says has given him a lot more independence.

“It allows me to do things for myself and not ask for help and gives me a bit more confidence,” he said.

He now has the dexterity to tie his own shoelaces and can help in the kitchen to a “limited” degree.

Looking back on the past five years, Mr McDonald said it had been “very difficult” emotionally and physically but he thanked his wife Claire for helping him get through.

“At times it was frustrating, knowing it was going on for so long and not making any progress,” he said.

“Physically, it has really taken its toll. I think I had 40 operations in total, each one under general anaesthetic. I also had skin grafts taken from other parts of my body, from my leg three times, and transplanted on to my hand and my arm.

“The medication I was on was really energy-sapping. It’s been a tough time.”

He said the amputation had been “an overnight cure” for his pain and suffering.

“The pain has gone away and the function is improving with the prosthetic device and it is just allowing me to get back to normal as much as I can,” he said.

Image caption Ian says his prosthetic hand has helped his independence and confidence

An investigation into the incident by Digby Brown Solicitors revealed there was an inadequate system of inspection and maintenance for equipment despite the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service knowing about the risks.

There were also protective coverings for the hose which would have prevented Ian’s injury but they were not used.

Solicitor David Nellaney said: “The SFRS is undoubtedly a safety-conscious organisation that provides an invaluable service but on this occasion it failed in its duty of care to an employee.

“No settlement can alter the past, but it can improve the future and in Ian’s case, it will provide access to ongoing medical treatment and ease the financial implications of this workplace injury.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue’s David McGown said he was heartened to see Mr McDonald make a strong recovery.

He said: “Following a robust investigation into Mr McDonald’s injury, we undertook a review of equipment and related safety checks and have taken appropriate steps to minimise the risk of similar incidents happening in the future.”

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The Best Womens World Cup In History Is About To Begin

Four years after the United States women’s national soccer team lifted its record third World Cup trophy, the Americans will enter the 2019 contest as the odds-on favorite to add a fourth star to their jerseys.

To do so, the United States will have to outlast the deepest and most talented World Cup field in women’s soccer history.

The 2019 World Cup ― the eighth edition since FIFA started a women’s tournament in 1991 ― opens in France on June 7. No fewer than six teams think they can compete for the title. A few others have the potential to make deep, disruptive runs. And a handful of newcomers will aim to be heard, too. That level of competition — and the larger 24-team field — is a testament to the growth of the women’s game worldwide over the nearly three decades since the first World Cup, and proof that even more investment could further fuel the sport’s popularity worldwide.

That growth ― brought on by bigger investments from national federations, expanding domestic leagues and an unwavering commitment to the game first and foremost from the women who play it ― will likely make this the most exciting World Cup in women’s soccer history. It may even result in a new supreme force in the sport: The top contenders include a host of nations, most notably France and England, that hope to win their first Women’s World Cup title.

They won’t if the defending champions have their way.

The United States Women’s National Team, which kicks off its World Cup on June 11 against Thailand, is still the best team in the world, especially when they have the ball. And they have the ball a lot.

Up top, striker Alex Morgan and her running mates ― wide forwards Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe ― form a three-headed attack capable of tying defenders in knots and pouring in goals. When the United States needs fresh legs or attacking reinforcements, manager Jill Ellis can turn to World Cup veteran Christen Press, starlet Mallory Pugh or 2015 hero Carli Lloyd ― now an out-and-out, kitchen-sink-style striker ― to batter tired defenses into submission. It’s a six-deep attacking outfit any manager would kill for. At its peak it looks like this:

The question for the United States is what happens behind those attackers, especially against tougher opponents than the Americans faced in qualifying or pre-World Cup tuneups. Led by Lindsey Horan ― the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League MVP and a genuine star ― and destroyer Julie Ertz, the midfield is uber-talented, but it has looked disjointed at times in those tuneups, especially when it comes to servicing the attackers. Ellis will need Rose Lavelle to play like the creative force she can be or she’ll have to tweak her lineup to get the red-hot Sam Mewis onto the pitch more.

The defense is also a bit of an open question. After the Americans conceded seven goals in four matches against World Cup contenders this spring, they’ve held their last four opponents scoreless. Is that progress or the benefit of weaker competition? In Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara, the United States has two wide defenders who can supplement the attack as much as they actually defend. But while stalwart Becky Sauerbrunn is back for her third World Cup, any of her three potential partners in the center of the defense will be making her first appearance on such a big stage. The U.S. also has a new face in goal. Add it all up and there are enough questions to cause at least a little concern.

Alex Morgan (13) leads a talented U.S. attacking line that could carry the Americans to their fourth World Cup title.

But this isn’t unfamiliar territory for Ellis and the United States. The Americans were sloppy and out-of-sync in the runup to the 2015 World Cup and even into the quarterfinals of that tournament. They still beat Germany and Japan to win the whole thing.

The United States is good enough to do it all over again. Just don’t be surprised if somebody else takes their place on the throne.

The Contenders

France: France is home to one of the world’s best women’s development academies, perhaps its best women’s league, and, in Olympique Lyonnais, almost certainly its best women’s club. All that’s missing is a World Cup title. Now, Les Bleues have a chance to win their first on home soil, a feat no team, men’s or women’s, has accomplished since the U.S. women’s team in 1999.

A sign of France’s depth: Manager Corinne Diacre left Marie-Antoinette Katoto, the French league’s leading scorer, off the national team roster, choosing more experienced strikers over the 20-year-old who scored 22 goals last season. Four Lyon stars form the backbone of this squad: Forward Eugenie Le Sommer, midfielder Amandine Henry, defender Wendie Renard, and goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi carried their club to a European title in May. A World Cup crown for their country this summer would make France the champions in both the men’s and women’s games. 

Amandine Henry (6) and France will chase the country’s first Women’s World Cup title, a victory that would make France the reigning champion in men’s and women’s soccer.

England: Similar to the situation in France, English women’s soccer has benefited from years of development spearheaded by its wealthy clubs and the English Football Association. After a heartbreaking defeat in the semifinal four years ago, The Three Lionesses are among the favorites this time around.

England is loaded up front, with Nikita Paris, Ellen White and Beth Mead forming a potentially potent attack. England cemented itself as a contender this spring when the Lionesses rode wins over Japan and Brazil and a draw with the United States to victory in the SheBelieves Cup.

Germany: The two-time champions haven’t won a World Cup since 2007, and despite taking the gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, their dominant grip on European women’s soccer has loosened a bit. But Germany is still ranked second in the world and is more than capable of joining the United States as the only three-time champions come July. Captain Dzsenifer Maroszan is the star: The midfielder, who finished third in the Best FIFA Women’s Player voting in May, is among the world’s top players.

Japan: Japan sits a bit behind the rest of the major contenders, but doubt them at your own risk. The Nadeshiko upset the United States to win the World Cup in 2011 and reached the final again four years ago. This version is young and raw, and winning a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is a major priority. They’ve beaten Brazil and drawn the United States and Germany already this year and may be rounding into shape at exactly the right time.

The Sleepers

The Netherlands: If there’s a team ready to explode onto the world stage this summer, it’s the Netherlands. The Dutch are making their second World Cup appearance ― they lost to Japan in the Round of 16 four years ago ― but maybe no team has come further faster since then. The Netherlands beat Sweden and England on the way to a European championship in 2017, and in Vivianne Miedema and Danielle Van de Donk, the Dutch boast two of the most exciting players who will take the field in France.

Brazil: The Brazilians reached the 2007 World Cup final and won silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, but they’ve yet to take the ultimate step. Could this be the year? It would have to be for this generation of stars: Formiga, Cristiane, Barbara and, most notably, Marta ― a six-time player of the year and probably the greatest women’s footballer of all time ― are all likely playing in their last World Cup. The Brazilians may be a dark horse, but recent results haven’t been good: Brazil lost nine straight matches heading to France, all against the quality of teams they’ll have to beat to surpass a disappointing Round of 16 finish four years ago.

Australia: Is Australia good enough to win the whole thing? Maybe not! Will they be the best, or at least most uniquely, dressed team at the World Cup? Definitely! And do they have Sam Kerr, one of the world’s best strikers and a genuine wonder to watch? They do! Australia probably won’t win this thing. But The Matildas ― another team that’s benefited from growing investments in their domestic league ― are pretty good, they’re capable of making a deep run, and Kerr is a terror. No one will be excited to face them at any point in this tournament.

Keep an eye on Canada and Sweden too. 

The Stories

Investment in the Women’s Game: A handful of countries have dominated women’s soccer for one simple reason. Led by the United States, they have all devoted more money and attention to the sport than their peers have. That dominance is waning, though, because more countries are devoting more money and attention to the sport than they have before.

In some cases, that’s been a decadelong push. The depth of talent that France, England, the Netherlands and Australia will bring to the World Cup is the result of concerted efforts and investments from national federations and domestic clubs. France and England would be especially poignant winners: Women in both countries were banned from organized soccer for most of the 20th century, but their persistence across decades of official discrimination forced the hands of national federations and top clubs. Now, either could be on the cusp of a first world championship (and, for England, the country’s first major soccer trophy since 1966).

In others, the investment is even more recent. Spain has had a women’s league since 1988, but it was only brought under the control of its main league in 2015. These days Spanish clubs ― including the famed Barcelona ― and the Spanish federation are embracing the women’s sport in ways they and many others across the world never have before.

A few years ago, U.S. great Julie Foudy argued that smaller nations with little hope of breaking through in men’s soccer should view investments in their women’s programs as a “major untapped market” in their countries and beyond. This World Cup features one team (Thailand) whose men have never qualified and another (Jamaica) whose men have only qualified once. It’s unlikely either women’s team will go far in their maiden appearance, but the mere fact that they’ll be in France, on the sort of soccer stage those countries have rarely if ever reached, could bring the game greater prominence back home. The first-time presence of Chile ― whose men failed to reach the World Cup last summer ― and the return of Argentina ― whose women hadn’t qualified since 2007 ― could help boost attention to the women’s sport in soccer-mad South America, too, and prove that even the most meager of investments could propel those teams forward.

Equal Pay and Equal Attention: That progress doesn’t mean there’s been enough investment, a fact that will overshadow this World Cup no matter how great it is. The world’s most prominent team, the United States, will jet to France while in the midst of yet another equal pay fight with the U.S. Soccer Federation. And the biggest story of this World Cup, before it even begins, is a player who won’t be there.

Norwegian star striker Ada Hegerberg, the reigning women’s player of the year, is effectively on strike against her national federation over unequal treatment of the women’s team there. In a sane world, that would wake Norwegian officials up. Norway with Hegerberg could have been a disruptive force in France; without her, they’re probably not good enough to threaten the sport’s real powers. And so a country that was once at the forefront of women’s soccer — Norway won the 1995 World Cup — is now most notable for its unwillingness to keep pushing forward.

After outrage over gender pay disparities during the 2015 World Cup, FIFA announced it would double the amount it pays out to women this year. But that increase is still smaller than what it gave men last summer. Soccer’s global players union has criticized FIFA, saying that “women’s football remains an afterthought for many of football’s male administrators.”

There are some (small) positive signs, though. The German Football Association acknowledged in an advertisement promoting its team that it hasn’t done enough: “We play for a nation that doesn’t even know our names,” the women say in the ad. Nike specifically designed its kits for women athletes for the first time. Visa, one of FIFA’s top sponsors, has said it would spend more money on women’s soccer, and Adidas will pay the women it sponsors on the winning team the same amount it gave their male counterparts at the 2018 World Cup.

The potential of women’s soccer is proven and obvious. It just needs sponsors, federations and FIFA to take it seriously. 

Potential Records: Watch Brazil if you want to see history. At age 41, midfielder Formiga is set to appear in her seventh World Cup, which would make her the first man or woman to do so. And with 15 goals, striker Marta is already the all-time leading scorer in Women’s World Cup history, so any time she scores in France, she’ll also add to her record. More importantly, two goals will push Marta past Germany’s Miroslav Klose as the leading World Cup scorer, male or female, ever. Canada’s Christine Sinclair is also just four goals away from the all-time record for goals scored in international play. 

The U.S. Women’s Schedule

The Americans must be tired of seeing Sweden in major tournaments. This is the third consecutive World Cup in which they’ve been paired together in the group stage, and things haven’t gone so well for the U.S. in the previous two. Sweden beat the United States in 2011 and earned a draw in 2015. Sweden also knocked the Americans out of the 2016 Olympics en route to the silver medal. Their battle on June 20 will likely determine who wins Group F.

U.S.-Thailand, Tuesday, June 11 (3 p.m./Fox)

U.S.-Chile, Sunday, June 16 (12 noon/Fox)

U.S.-Sweden, Thursday, June 20 (3 p.m./Fox)

Don’t Miss These Matchups

In addition to U.S.-Sweden, the group stage features three other matches that will pit teams ranked in FIFA’s top 10 against each other. All of them should have major implications for how the tournament shapes up in the knockout stage.

Australia-Brazil, Thursday, June 13 (12 noon/Fox)

England-Japan, Wednesday, June 19 (3 p.m./Fox Sports 1)

Netherlands-Canada, Thursday, June 20 (12 noon/Fox)

France and South Korea will meet in the World Cup’s opening match on June 7 (3 p.m./Fox Sports 1).

The full schedule, with TV listings, is here.

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London Bridge attackers ‘like predators’

Image copyright GoogleMaps
Image caption Geoff Ho was in Black and Blue – next to Borough Market – when the attackers entered

The London Bridge attackers stalked people who were in a bar-restaurant like “predators”, a man who was stabbed has told the inquest.

Geoff Ho was in Black and Blue, on the edge of Borough Market, when the three attackers entered with “slow, deliberate predatory movements”.

He was among 48 people injured on the evening of 3 June 2017.

Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, killed eight people with their van and knife attack.

Speaking at the Old Bailey, Mr Ho told the inquest: “It was like they were stalking someone.”

He said he refused the attackers’ demands to lie down on the floor, saying he knew “if I lay down I’d be dead”.

He told the court they were wearing a series of “metal canisters liked baked bean tins” with wires connecting them, which he took to be suicide bombs.

After being told by one of the men to lie on the floor, he told the court he said: “No – you don’t have to do this.”

He said he thought: “If I rush him he might detonate and kill us all. The only thing I can do is talk to him and hopefully he will go away.”

He described the “murderous rage” in the man’s eyes.

Mr Ho gave a graphic description of how he was repeatedly stabbed. Eventually he was able to get up and seek help, with his hand clasped around his throat to stop the bleeding.

CCTV footage later showed that the time taken from the three men entering the bar until they lashed out was less than a minute.

Mr Ho told the court: “It seemed longer.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Geoff Ho and his fiancee Cecile De Alenca

The first 10 days of the inquests focused on the eight people killed in the first few minutes of the attack.

The hearing has now begun to look into the next phase – as Redouane, Butt and Zaghba continued stabbing people in bars, restaurants and on the street in the Borough Market area.

Candice Hedge – a waitress at Elliot’s Cafe, opposite Black and Blue – described how customers were “scrambling to try to get a safe spot” when the three attackers came in.

She said she remembered seeing “some sort of wires” on one of the men, which she thought looked like an explosive vest.

“They were shouting something along the lines of they were not happy with the way we were living our lives,” Ms Hedge added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Ho and Candice Hedge both gave evidence to the inquest on Wednesday

She saw one of the men stab a customer twice in the back and then “the one beside me turned around as if to leave and then he saw me”.

Ms Hedge put her hands up to protect her face, but was stabbed in the neck. She went to the bar and grabbed a napkin which she used to try and stem the bleeding.

‘Bar stools smashing’

She said she moved to the stairs and could not see what the attacker was doing, but could hear bar stools smashing.

She fled to a downstairs kitchen where she waited with colleagues until police arrived about 20-30 minutes later.

Meanwhile, the last person injured in the attack – Antonio Filis – told the court he felt lucky to be alive after a knife wound narrowly missed his lung.

The inquest heard he had had martial arts training some years before and was initially able to use it to avoid the assailant’s knife.

But the other two attackers joined the assault stabbing Mr Filis several times.

As he lay on the ground, Mr Filis said he thought: “Whatever’s going to happen, please make it quick.”

Almost immediately, armed police arrived and the three attackers left him.

The trio moved towards the officers, who warned them to drop their knives before opening fire, hitting all three of the attackers.

Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were all killed in the attack.

It was brought to an end in less than 10 minutes when the attackers were shot dead.

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McGrath: We had to use cocoa powder for make-up

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption McGrath has worked on fashion runways as well as for editorial shoots, and now has her own product range

Multi-millionaire make-up artist Pat McGrath says she used to use cocoa powder on her face because of the lack of beauty products for black skin.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the self-taught beauty expert said she learnt from her mother that if “you can’t buy it, make it”.

McGrath has worked with fashion designers including Alexander McQueen and Givenchy.

She added it was “fantastic” to see the fashion industry becoming more diverse.

McGrath, from Northampton, told presenter Lauren Laverne that growing up she used to borrow her mother’s skincare products and lipsticks – which she used to experiment with.

“She even used cocoa powder, she came in from the kitchen with cocoa powder all over her face, and she was like, ‘This is the right tone of powder.’

“And she had dusted it on her face and she looked amazing.

“So that’s what I ended up doing as well, was making products that I needed backstage.

“That stems from my mother, if you can’t find it, you can’t buy it, make it.”

She recalled making her own moisturiser for her dolls and herself, adding: “I mixed oil and water together, whipped it and put it in the fridge and it looked like a cream… I was shining like a Belisha beacon for months.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption McGrath working at a Christian Dior show at Paris Fashion Week in 2008

McGrath – who worked as a runway make-up artist as well as for magazine shoots and covers – said she was “so happy” to see the changes in the fashion industry.

“We have models from all different social backgrounds, different weight, body types, different religious backgrounds, shows that are over 50% women of colour and it just wasn’t there for such a long time. And now, it’s just so fantastic to see. Beautiful.”

She was also asked about whether she experienced much racism growing up in the 1970s, but said she had a “solid base” around her, adding: “I was very lucky, having the mother I had, who was like, ‘Oh look at that person, they’re racist, poor things, let’s go shopping.'”

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The strange death of Innes Ewart

Image copyright Ewart family
Image caption Innes Ewart was 27 when he died in 2001

For 18 years a mother has been trying to find answers to why her son apparently turned his back on his new life in Germany and withdrew almost £1,000 in cash before being found dying at the bottom of a multi-storey car park in London.

It was 04:00 on the morning of 22 January 2001 that Pat Ewart’s nightmare began.

A knock on the door of her neat bungalow on the outskirts of Inverness was answered by her husband Ron.

“You need to get up, Pat,” she remembers him shouting. “There’s a policeman at the door.”

In a daze she stumbled downstairs to the incongruous sight of the police officer standing in her living room.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Innes, from Inverness, had been living in Munich before he died

He cut to the chase. Their son Innes was dead.

The 27-year-old had been discovered the previous afternoon at the bottom of an eight-storey car park in East London.

The evidence had pointed to one thing: he had jumped from the rooftop and taken his own life.

Image caption Pat Ewart has spent 18 years seeking answers to her son’s death

That point in time is forever frozen in Pat’s memory.

Despite the passing of the years she rewinds every word and gesture of that early morning in flawless detail.

“No,” she said. “You’re wrong.”

Image caption Innes grew up near Inverness

“Innes lives and works in Germany,” she said.

“Look, I’ll phone him now. He always answers his phone.”

But this time the phone just rang and rang.

In a panic she ran to her computer to leave a message.

She remembers every word as if it was yesterday.

Image caption Young Innes had grown up to be a computer programmer

Pat wrote: “Innes. Pick up your phone. There’s been a mistake. A body’s been found and the police say it’s you. Where are you?”

There was never to be a reply.

Image caption Innes’s passport was found at the scene

Police later told them Innes’s passport and bank cards were on his body.

In the bewilderment and blur of the days that followed, Pat, Ron and their three other children tried to make sense of it all.

Nothing added up, Pat says.

Possible flaws

Innes, a computer programmer, had gone to Munich to work at Philips Analytica after employment had dried up in Scotland.

He loved his job, had no money worries and was close to his family and friends.

Only days before, the family had all chatted happily to him over the computer for more than two hours.

Nothing seemed wrong, nothing remiss.

Image caption A photo of the car park several years later when railing had been added on the top floor

But the facts appeared to speak for themselves. Police had viewed CCTV footage of the open rooftop car park above the Stratford Shopping Centre from where Innes was said to have jumped.

The camera, on the eighth floor, shows Innes coming out of the lift alone and walking straight through the landing doors to the car park. That was all. There were no CCTV cameras on the rooftop itself.

In these few short frames he seems neither anxious nor hurried. The tape records the time as 14:54.

Image caption CCTV showed Innes coming out of the lift on the 8th floor of the car park

At 15:00 Innes was found dying by shop workers below.

The police later said there was no signs of struggle.

By 17:45 that day police had wrapped up the scene, concluding that Innes had killed himself.

Image caption The car park now has a 6ft-high perimeter fence

Image caption At the time of Innes’s death there was only a small railing on the 8th floor wall

Three short impersonal hours was all it took to sum up a life and its terrible finale.

For Pat too, a soul-searching audit of a son’s life awaited.

Ron had asked her to think the unthinkable – perhaps Innes did take his own life.

Pat sat through a whole night, poring over possible flaws, missed clues or traits that she may have overlooked in her son’s character.

Designer watch

By dawn she was more convinced than ever that Innes could not have killed himself.

And new evidence in the days and months ahead raised doubts about how the police had conducted the investigation.

“I phoned up Forest Gate Police Station (in East London) to ask about a gold designer Raymond Weil watch we had bought Innes that Christmas,” says Pat.

She was astounded to be told the police had not found one on him.

There was no way he would not have left Munich without it, she says.

And there was more.

Pat and Ron discovered that Innes had withdrawn about £1,000 in cash from his German and Scottish bank accounts the day he left Germany.

One of the investigating officers on the day, stated that he had no knowledge of any missing money.

Pat faxed him this key new piece of information but the officer said he had not received it.

For Pat, the police’s hasty deduction of suicide was now looking increasingly tenuous.

Image caption Ron, left, said his son was afraid of nothing

Innes’s father Ron says it looked like his son had been robbed.

Someone might have seen his money and gone after it, Ron says.

But Innes would have stood up to him, he says. He wasn’t frightened.

Cinema ticket

There were still other unanswered questions for the family.

What was he doing in London? Why did he only have £1.10 in his pocket?

The police had found tickets among his belongings.

A booking for a hotel in Innes’s name the evening before but which he never stayed in.

Image caption Innes bought a ticket at Stratford station

Another was a Tube ticket bought at Stratford Station.

It was placed in the barrier and recorded as used but Innes never made that journey.

Image caption Innes purchased a cinema ticket at the nearby Stratford Picture House

More intriguingly, Innes purchased a cinema ticket at the nearby Stratford Picture House.

The film was due to play at 14:45 that afternoon – 15 minutes before Innes was found dying.

Who buys a cinema ticket and then goes on to kill themselves, his family asks?

Despite this Pat and the family kept faith with the police.

Image caption Innes’s parents on the top of the car park several years later

“I was brought up to trust the police. I thought they would investigate,” Pat says.

That faith was to be severely tested seven months later at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court when the coroner delivered an open verdict.

Dr Elisabeth Stearns said she “could not satisfy herself as to precisely what happened in the few minutes leading up to the fall”.

She added that it did not mean that the police had not investigated it thoroughly but that there were still “unanswered questions”.

Some of those unanswered questions did concern the hasty police investigation.

Threw jacket in bin

Innes had bought a ticket at Stratford Picture House at 14:27 that day. Another officer was despatched to seize collect any CCTV footage in and around the cinema.

That officer said he was told by staff there was recorded footage inside the foyer but staff had no access to it as the manager was not on duty. He asked that it be kept and it would be collected later. That tape was never picked up.

Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Innes’s mum said he was close to his family

A later statement given by the cinema’s deputy manager seems to contradict the officer’s account. He said that an officer asked him about the footage from the foyer that day. He did not ask to view it but said someone might contact him later about it.

Later the police heard evidence from the cinema’s security guard. He recalls that afternoon seeing a man in his 30s just outside the cinema in a very agitated state. At one stage he threw a jacket in the bin before retrieving it.

Was it Innes? Pat will never know. But what could have been vital evidence was allowed to slip through the cracks of the investigation.

Image caption Innes’s mother Pat visited the scene of his death

Failed memories were in abundance that day. One officer said he had told his colleague of the cinema footage but in a later inquiry that officer would say he had no memory of that conversation taking place.

One thing the police did do on the day of the coroner’s inquest was to take Pat and Ron to the car park to see for themselves where Innes had died.

The car park is open to the elements and affords a panoramic view of the surrounding Lea Valley. But then, according to the Ewarts, the police officer who was with them that day said something strange.

They say the officer blurted out to them that this was the first time he had been up on the top floor.

Pat says: “We were shocked to hear that.”

She and Ron began to wonder if any proper forensic inspection had even taken place on the top floor that day.

As they walked back over the route Innes had taken that day they were even more astounded to discover that the place was saturated with CCTV cameras.

Image caption There were numerous CCTV cameras on the route Innes took

From the moment Innes had left Stratford Tube station to the short walk across the concrete plaza to the cinema, through the shopping mall leading to the lift to the car park, his every step would have been recorded on CCTV.

Yet the senior officer that day had only instructed her officers to seize footage from the cinema and the car park.

Determined to find out more Pat and Ron instructed their lawyers to file a complaint about the police investigation.

Image caption Innes’s parents after the inquest recorded an open verdict

The family’s persistence over the years to get answers has now led in total to three investigations – one an internal review, a Police Complaints Authority complaint and an independent review of police conduct.

On the outside, Pat is a politely spoken woman in her middle age who was brought up, in her own words, “to respect the police”.

But 18 years of police obfuscation has forged a steely mettle.

Vital footage

To this day she refuses to believe the Metropolitan Police’s reasons for her son’s death.

She will fight to her dying breath to get answers to how and why Innes died that day.

She has fought tenaciously to see the internal police reports into the handling of Innes’s case.

Image caption Innes’s mother is convinced he could not have killed himself

Now armed with the information through repeated Freedom of Information requests, the findings make for grim and depressing reading for Pat and her family.

Forensic analysis did take place but only on the lower second floor where a footprint was ruled out of the investigation.

Regarding forensics on the eighth floor, the Met’s Internal Investigations Command stated “it had been impossible to establish if this was requested but clearly it was not done”.

The report goes on to say that because of weather conditions on the day, nothing was lost by this omission.

But a central premise of a suicide is that there is no third party involvement giving rise to foul play.

Without doing this most basic of police procedures how can the police know whether there was or was not any foul play?

Most contentious of all was the seizure of vital CCTV footage.

No-one disputes there were ample opportunities to do so given the extensive coverage in the whole area.

There were cameras at the subway, cinema foyer and throughout the shopping mall.

So why did the officer in charge choose to limit these options?

The reasons set out in the various reports over the years appear contradictory.

An internal Met review of the investigation dated February 2002 said “CCTV footage within the Mall was checked but was negative”. By the time another internal investigation had reported in May 2003 this had changed.

The officer in charge said that, since the circumstances seemed non-suspicious, there was no necessity to check the CCTV from the numerous cameras in the shopping centre.

For these omissions, two officers received “formal advice from a commanding officer for their failings”. In other words, a verbal dressing down.

A potential crime scene is a fast moving and confusing mix of witnesses, police and forensic personnel, evidence gathering and on-the-spot statements.

To help police in the critical hours and days ahead, it is accepted that it is good practice to log as much of the event as possible.

Image caption Ron and Pat Ewart have been looking for answers for 18 years

The police toolkit for such situations usually includes a Crime Scene Log to monitor times of arrival and departure for police and forensic personnel.

An Incident Management Log is also key in protecting the chain of evidence, logging the decisions and strategy of the officer in charge on the day.

And all officers are encouraged to take statements and observations in their small pocket books.

‘Don’t hate police’

Much of what happened on the afternoon of 21 January 2001 may never be clear. But what could have been revealed to Pat and her family might have been contained in these contemporaneous records.

However, the pocket books of two officers and the Incident Management Log from the day were lost prior to the inquest.

The reason given at the time was the chaotic state of the archive at Forest Gate Police Station.

What emerges in the various internal reports was that many of the officers on the day admitted that they had little if no training on securing and investigating a crime scene.

One was portrayed as a good officer but who “lacked the necessary experience to effectively deal with the case”.

And while the officer in charge claims she did her best, she quoted her lack of investigative experience and training as an explanation for any shortfall.

For Pat Ewart, it is 18 years on but the pain and loss are still there.

She takes comfort from Innes’s siblings and her growing family of grandchildren.

But still, she says, there is a hole in the heart of her family, one she can never be sure will be fixed.

As she looks out of her kitchen window on the Highlands countryside, she says simply: “I don’t hate the police.”

But behind her calm gaze a mother waits – waiting for the day when she has answers to how her son died.

Listen to the new podcast from BBC Scotland’s Disclosure investigating The Strange Death of Innes Ewart. If you want to speak to BBC Scotland Disclosure about this investigation, or another story, follow the team on Twitter @BBCDislosure.

Other BBC Scotland podcasts include The Doorstep Murder, also available on BBC Sounds.

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Revealed: BP Portrait Award shortlist

Image copyright Hopkins/Pironti

A nude painting of a photographer with her dog and a portrait of a 95-year-old grandmother are on the shortlist for this year’s BP Portrait Award 2019.

There are four finalists, selected from more than 2,500 entries from 84 countries.

The winner, who will pick up £35,000 in prize money, will be announced at a ceremony on 10 June.

All but one of the four shortlisted artists are first-time entrants to the prestigious competition.

One of the images below contains nudity.

Quo Vadis? by Massimiliano Pironti

Image copyright Massimiliano Pironti
Image caption Quo Vadis? by Massimiliano Pironti

Massimiliano Pironti’s portrait Quo Vadis? depicts his maternal grandmother, Vincenza, a former miller and factory worker, now aged 95. Pironti made sketches and took photographs in the kitchen of his grandmother’s home in the Italian town of Gavignano, returning to his studio in Germany for the painting process.

Pironti says: “My grandmother is an example of strength, dignity and authority. Every wrinkle tells her story and I wanted to capture her image to freeze time. This portrait is truly important to me. It touches emotional chords.”

Pironti is also a professional dancer and is currently on stage in a long-running production of the Disney musical Tarzan in Germany.

The Crown by Carl-Martin

Image copyright Carl-Martin Sandvold
Image caption The Crown by Carl-Martin Sandvold

Carl-Martin Sandvold made urban street art during his teenage years before beginning training in Norway, Italy and the US. Sandvold’s current studio is located on the site of Edvard Munch’s former estate on the outskirts of Oslo.

His self-portrait The Crown reflects his interest in “the challenges of life, the strangeness of being alive and other existential issues”.

He adds: “The crown symbolises the peak of power, achievement and material abundance. In this portrait, it suggests one of these things really solve anything.”

Imara in her Winter Coat by Charlie Schaffer

Image copyright Charlie Schaffer
Image caption Imara in her Winter Coat by Charlie Schaffer

London-born Charlie Schaffer’s portrait Imara in her Winter Coat portrays Imara, an English Literature student he met after moving permanently to Brighton.

Schaffer says: “She immediately struck me as someone who is uncompromisingly open and who wants to learn about anything and everything.”

Sittings for the portrait took place over four months, with Imara posing in her warmest winter coat to withstand the studio’s cold conditions.

Schaffer set out to paint only Imara’s face, but subsequently added the coat after being inspired by Titian’s Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro in the National Gallery, London, with its subject’s similar attire.

Sophie and Carla by Emma Hopkins

Image copyright Emma Hopkins
Image caption Sophie and Carla by Emma Hopkins

Emma Hopkins was born in Brighton in 1989 and is self-taught. She focuses almost exclusively on nude portraits and studies of human flesh.

Hopkins’ portrait Sophie and Carla depicts the photographer Sophie Mayanne and her pet dog Carla. Mayanne is known for Behind the Scars, a photography project about people’s scars and the stories behind them. It is an interest which Hopkins shares. She says: “I want to understand as much as I can about what it means to be human. We are not just the clothed person we present to the world. We are the mind and body that we inhabit.”

The BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition will run at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 13 June to Sunday 20 October 2019.

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email

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Why America Cant Solve Homelessness

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The lunch rush at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is a snapshot of the changing character of American homelessness.

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of people the soup kitchen serves. The line outside starts forming two hours before the food is ready. Diners file in, eat quickly and get up as soon as they’re finished. They know someone is waiting outside for their seat.

Over a hundred people move through the line to receive a bagged lunch outside of the St. Vincent De Paul Dining Hall on April 30, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

Even more striking than the scale of need are the shifting demographics of who is eating here and why. The homeless population is getting younger, staffers say, and more likely to have children and full-time jobs. In one hour, over taco salad and Fanta, I meet fast-food employees, a former car salesman who lost his home in the financial crisis and a pregnant 31-year-old whose baby is due the same month her housing vouchers run out.

But the biggest surprise about St. Vincent’s may be the state in which it’s located. Just four years ago, Utah was the poster child for a new approach to homelessness, a solution so simple you could sum it up in five words: Just give homeless people homes.

In 2005, the state and its capital started providing no-strings-attached apartments to the “chronically” homeless — people who had lived on the streets for at least a year and suffered from mental illness, substance abuse or a physical disability. Over the next 10 years, Utah built hundreds of housing units, hired dozens of social workers ― and reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent.

A volunteer counts people receiving lunches at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall.

The results were a sensation. In 2015, breathless media reports announced that a single state, and a single policy, had finally solved one of urban America’s most vexing problems. Reporters from around the country came to Utah to gather lessons for their own cities. In a widely shared “Daily Show” segment,Hasan Minhaj jogged the streets of Salt Lake City, asking locals if they knew where all the homeless people had gone.

But this simplistic celebration hid a far more complex truth. While Salt Lake City targeted a small subset of the homeless population, the overall problem got worse. Between 2005 and 2015, while the number of drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless people fell dramatically, the number of people sleeping in the city’s emergency shelter more than doubled. Since then, unsheltered homelessness has continued to rise. According to 2018 figures, the majority of unhoused families and single adults in Salt Lake City are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“People thought that if we built a few hundred housing units we’d be out of the woods forever,” said Glenn Bailey, the executive director of Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City food bank. “But if you don’t change the reasons people become homeless in the first place, you’re just going to have more people on the streets.”

This is not just a Salt Lake City story. Across the country, in the midst of a deepening housing crisis and widening inequality, homelessness has concentrated in America’s most prosperous cities. So far, municipal leaders have responded with policies that solve a tiny portion of the problem and fail to account for all the ways their economies are pushing people onto the streets.

The reality is that no city has ever come close to solving homelessness. And over the last few years, it has become clear that they cannot afford to.

Eric (not his real name) is exactly the kind of person Utah’s policy experiment was intended to help. He is 55 years old and has been homeless for most of his life. He takes medication for his schizophrenia, but his paranoia still leads him to cash his disability checks and hide them in envelopes around the city. When he lived on the streets, his drug of choice was a mix of heroin and cocaine. These days it’s meth.

Despite all his complications, Eric is a success story. He lives in a housing complex in the suburbs of Salt Lake City that was built for the chronically homeless. He has case workers who ensure that he takes his medications and renews his benefits. While he may never live independently, he is far better off here than in a temporary shelter, a jail cell or sleeping on the streets.

The problem for policymakers is that Eric is no longer emblematic of American homelessness. In Salt Lake City, just like everywhere else, the population of people sleeping on the streets looks a lot different than it used to.

As the economy has come out of the Great Recession, America’s unhoused population has exploded almost exclusively in its richest and fastest-growing cities. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of people living on the streets declined by 11 percent nationwide — and surged by 26 percent in Seattle, 47 percent in New York City and 75 percent in Los Angeles. Even smaller cities, like Reno and Boise, have seen spikes in homelessness perfectly coincide with booming tech sectors and falling unemployment.  

In other words, homelessness is no longer a symbol of decline. It is a product of prosperity. And unlike Eric, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs.

“The people with the highest risk of homelessness are the ones living on a Social Security check or working a minimum-wage job,” said Margot Kushel, the director of the UCSF. Center for Vulnerable Populations. In 2015, she led a team of researchers who interviewed 350 people living on the streets in Oakland. Nearly half of their older interviewees were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“If they make it to 50 and they’ve never been homeless, there’s a good chance they don’t have severe mental illness or substance abuse issues,” Kushel said. “Once they become homeless, they start to spiral downward really quickly. They’re sleeping three to four hours a night, they get beat up, they lose their medications. If you walk past them in a tent, they seem like they need all these services. But what they really needed was cheaper rent a year ago.”

Other research has found the same connection between housing costs and homelessness. In 2012, researchers found that a $100 increase in monthly rent in big cities was associated with a 15 percent rise in homelessness. The effect was even stronger in smaller cities.

“Once you’re homeless, it’s a steep hill to climb back up,” Bailey said. “When an eviction is on your record, it’s even steeper. And even if you do get back into housing, you’re still one illness or one car problem away from becoming homeless again.”

And rising affluence isn’t just transforming the economic factors that cause homelessness. It is also changing the politics of the cities tasked with solving it. Across the country, as formerly poor neighborhoods have gentrified, politicians are facing increasingly strident calls to criminalize panhandling and bulldoze tent encampments. While city residents consistently tell pollsters that they support homeless services in principle, specific proposals to build shelters or expand services face vociferous local opposition.

“The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies,” said Sara Rankin, the director of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project at Seattle University School of Law. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that punishing homeless people makes it harder for them to find housing and get work. Nonetheless, the most common demands from urban voters are for politicians to increase arrests, close down soup kitchens and impose entry requirements and drug tests in shelters.

“Homelessness is a two-handed problem,” Rankin said. “One hand is everything you’re doing to make it better and the other is everything you’re doing to make it worse. Right now, we spend far more effort undoing our progress than advancing it.”

Dorriane Olson, 47, organizes her belongings in the courtyard at Library Square on May 1, 2019, in downtown Salt Lake City. Olson works a job overnight and tries to sleep during the day. She says she’s been on a waiting list for housing for two years.

No municipality demonstrates this dynamic better than Salt Lake City. Thanks to rising housing and construction costs, the building of new homeless housing has slowed to a trickle. A plan to replace the city’s central homeless shelter with a handful of smaller, suburban facilities has been delayed and scaled down due to neighborhood opposition. In 2017, after years of demands by downtown residents and businesses, Utah initiated a $67 million law enforcement crackdown on the population sleeping on the streets of its state capital. In its first year, the campaign resulted in more than 5,000 arrests — and just 101 homeless people being placed into housing.

And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them. And the worse the problem gets, the harder it becomes to solve.

“The entire system has stalled,” said Andrew Johnston, the vice president of program operations for Volunteers of America Utah, one of the largest service providers in Salt Lake City. “As the economy has improved, policymakers seem to believe that the market will supply affordable housing on its own. But if you don’t put public and private money into it, you’re not going to get it.”

Three years after she escaped from homelessness, Georgia Gregersen’s most enduring memory is how quickly she fell into it.

“I’m a waitress, I’m at home with a new baby and three months later I’m sleeping in an empty parking garage,” said Gregersen, who now lives in a Salt Lake City suburb.

Her story plays out as a series of unraveling safety nets. She had been trying to get clean for years, but the waitlists for rehab were months long. She got on methadone when she found out she was pregnant, but it cost $85 per week, almost as much as she had been spending on heroin. After her son was born she was eligible for daycare vouchers, but the never-ending paperwork — “something was always wrong or required another appointment” — meant she never actually got them.

Georgia Gregersen at her home on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Taylorsville, Utah.

Eventually, the cost of childcare and the stress of being a single mom got to her and she relapsed. Within weeks she had lost her job and handed her son over to her parents. Her aunt, with whom she had been staying, asked her to move out.

Sleeping outside made her even more desperate to get clean, but everywhere she turned her options were cut off. Every halfway house and detox center in Salt Lake City was full. When she applied for subsidized housing, a government official told her it would take two years just to get on the waiting list.

“I thought, I’ll probably be dead by then,” she said.

Gregersen spiraled downward in 2015, right around the time Utah announced it had ended chronic homelessness. Unlike the recipients of that experiment — most of whom required 24-hour, lifelong support — Gregersen didn’t need permanent supportive housing. She needed every other form of support to be adequately funded and available when she needed it.

“We always look to one thing to be the answer,” she said, “but I needed everything, and in concert.”

Gregersen’s story perfectly encapsulates the challenge of urban policy in a changing and deteriorating America. Truly ending homelessness will require cities to systematically repair all the cracks in the country’s brittle, shattered welfare system. From drug treatment to rental assistance to subsidized child care, the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance.

And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it.  

“Politicians keep proposing quick fixes and simple solutions because they can’t publicly admit that solving homelessness is expensive,” Kushel said. Before the 1980s, she points out, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.

Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of low-income households receiving federal rental assistance dropped by more than half. Hundreds of thousands of mental health treatment beds have disappeared. Despite having far deeper pockets, the federal government now spends less per homeless person than the city of San Francisco.  

The relentless localization of responsibility means that cities are spending more than they ever have on homelessness and, at the same time, nowhere near enough. L.A.’s recent $1.2 billion housing bond is one of the largest in American history. It will construct 1,000 permanent supportive housing units every year — in a city where 14,000 people need one. According to a 2018 analysis, Seattle would have to double its current spending to provide housing and services for everyone living on the streets.

Smaller cities have an even wider spending gap. According to Salt Lake City’s Housing & Neighborhood Development Department, building one unit of affordable housing costs roughly $154,000. Providing a home to all 6,800 people currently accessing homeless services would cost the city roughly $1 billion — two-thirds of its entire annual budget.

“We know that it’s cheaper in the long run to provide housing for homeless people, but cities don’t get money back when that happens,” said Tony Sparks, an urban studies professor at San Francisco State University. Expanding social support and building subsidized housing require huge upfront investments that may not pay off for decades. Though the costs of managing a large homeless population mostly fall on hospitals and law enforcement, reducing the burden on those systems won’t put spending back in city coffers.

“If you know how city budgets work, everything goes into a different pot,” Sparks said. “When you save money on health care, it just goes back into the health care system. It doesn’t trickle sideways.”

Georgia Gregersen at her home.

But all the challenges of funding their response to homelessness doesn’t mean cities are entirely powerless. For a start, municipal leaders could remove the zoning codes that make low-income housing and homeless shelters illegal in their residential neighborhoods. They could replace encampment sweeps and anti-panhandling laws with municipally sanctioned tent cities. They could update their eviction regulations to keep people in the housing they already have.

Cities can also, crucially, address the huge diversity of the homeless population. Rankin points out that for young mothers, the most frequent cause of homelessness is domestic abuse. For young men, it is often a recent discharge from foster care or prison. The young homeless population is disproportionately gay and trans.

All these populations are already interacting with dozens of municipal agencies that haven’t been designed to serve them. Even without major new funding sources, cities could do a lot better with the systems they already have. Schools, for example, could provide social workers for unhoused students. Libraries could invite health care workers to help homeless patrons manage their chronic illnesses. Law enforcement agencies could reorient themselves around outreach and harm reduction rather than arrests and encampment sweeps.

The key, Rankin said, is to make these changes consistent, dynamic and permanent. Like paving roads or running buses, cities will never be “finished” with the goal of preventing and alleviating homelessness. Unless something fundamental changes in the American economy, it is something they will have to do forever.

Back in Salt Lake City, Gregersen is now finishing her college degree and volunteering at the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition. I ask her what she sees as the legacy of Utah’s high-profile approach to homelessness.

“We’re afraid of throwing too much money into this issue,” she said. “We do a little bit here and a little bit there. And then, when it doesn’t solve the whole problem, we say it didn’t work and we try something else.”

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I Spent Half My Life Feeling Shame For Being Asian In America. Heres What Changed.

“Your daughter might have to be held back a year. I think she might be retarded.”

My horrified Chinese immigrant parents gasped as my preschool teacher unprofessionally vocalized her concern that I wasn’t singing my nursery rhymes as well as the rest of my peers.

“If I advance her to kindergarten, things will have to change at home.”

The following year, I began elementary school and started to learn English intensively as Mandarin took a backseat. I began memorizing lyrics of pop songs, boy bands, whatever was going on with Britney Spears, as well as the lineups of MTV, Nickelodeon and the Disney channel just to take part in conversation. But over the years, it became much more than that.

There is a private hell that comes with being a first-generation kid. Growing up smack dab in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, my small suburban town — San Carlos — was predominantly Caucasian, nearly 80% to be exact. From first through fifth grade, each day was a marathon as I sat through classes with my peers and attended supplemental speech therapy — primarily to learn the “th” phonetic — which was nonexistent in Mandarin.

“Th-uh, not suh. Though, not zough. Then, not zen.” I’d repeat these hundreds of times a day like my life depended on it.

While most of my classmates ended their days with sports or dance, I went home to repeat everything with my mother and teach her vocabulary that she didn’t already know. I’d build more and more confidence to speak, but then every so often I’d watch in horror as a classmate would mockingly pull the corners of their eyes and felt all my progress unravel.

While most of my classmates ended their days with sports or dance, I went home to repeat everything with my mother and teach her vocabulary that she didn’t already know.


In grade school, I would stockpile brown paper bags from crafting classes to hide the bright pink “Thank You” bags in when my mom would pack my delicious, but “fragrant” homemade lunches. In addition to learning coursework, speech and English, I’d quietly observe the mannerisms of my peers. And whether it was slang, comedic timing or how to be a good friend, I became obsessed with the unabashed personalities of my gregarious classmates as I remained in my private quarters and bonded with the more compassionate wallflowers.

Some days when the pressure felt too immense, I’d keep my head down without uttering a word and count the hours until I was able to free myself of all speculation, bullying and conformity. And as soon as my mom or dad picked me up, I stepped into a portal — greeted by melodic, sentimental Chinese pop songs blaring out of the car like an ice cream truck — that transported me far away and returned me back to the little rituals that managed to remain intact at home.

At night, after homework assignments and reconstructed lessons, my family and I gathered around the TV in crazed anticipation of our trashy Chinese soap operas that all seemed to feature some variation of a doe-eyed protagonist, caught in the center of an agonizing love triangle with two mediocre men. I’d then fall asleep in my mom’s arms as she read me stories about karma, reincarnation and the importance of living a purposeful and altruistic life.

When friends came over, I swapped my Mahjong tiles with unsuspecting Monopoly and Candyland centerpieces.

But when friends came over, I manically expunged my room of all items indicative of culture like it was a crime scene. I pulled out my bin of Disney princess dolls and crammed Totoro and Hello Kitty into the darkest depths of my closet, praying that Toy Story wasn’t based on a true story. Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Lemony Snicket, and multiple volumes of Harry Potter inconspicuously hid my collection of translated Buddhist fables. Mahjong tiles were swapped out with unsuspecting Monopoly and Candyland centerpieces.

I became queen of the double life.


Slowly but surely, after years of engineering a convincing image, I found my own voice and finally felt like I had my footing to interject in conversations without social anxiety. The feeling of making my classmates laugh at something other than my accent or accidental responses in Mandarin became my fuel for developing my American identity, but in turn, caused me to rapidly neglect and erase my cultural heritage.

Over the years, I found snappy comebacks to the dreaded, “Where are you from, where are you really from?” question; “my mother’s womb” was my favorite and evoked the most eye rolls — but I never failed to realize that I would always be seen as an Asian female before being known for my character, personality, or anything else. At some point, after years of conditioning, my Asian identity became an afterthought as I feigned a sickeningly-perfect valley girl accent and proved to myself that my California-girl identity could successfully take the helm.

In my mind, this path of assimilation was what my parents had been pushing me toward ever since my education took a turn when I was 5. They never recognized their actions, or mine, to be motivated by shame, but rather, it was the drive to succeed — and assimilating was what it took. I grew to love this version of myself and took pride in being surrounded by American friends while still having a soft spot and deep understanding of the immigrant narrative.

In college, speaking Mandarin became so rare that it was like pulling out a magic trick if my friends and I happened to be dining somewhere I could place orders or specify dietary restrictions in my native tongue. But even then, oftentimes servers would come running to my rescue — forks in hand — when they saw noodles landing in my lap from how poorly I attempted to use chopsticks. To some extent, I enjoyed straddling the line of gray area to avoid being grouped into any archetype — confusion was my greatest preventative measure for avoiding racist stereotypes.

In college, speaking Mandarin became so rare that it was like pulling out a magic trick if my friends and I happened to be dining somewhere I could place orders or specify dietary restrictions in my native tongue.

I grew to realize that no part of me fit either identity quite correctly though, and that’s what’s become the most difficult aspect of being first-generation American. Among my friends in my hometown, I stood out as having foreign origins that needed constant explaining, and in Taiwan — my parents’ native country — I looked and felt out of place and spoke Mandarin as well as a 6-year-old, at best.

The longing for relatability became most reflected in my love life, of all places. Whether coincidental or an inadvertent pattern, most of the people I’ve dated in my 20s have either been immigrants or first gens with backgrounds differing from my own. I’ve found that the comfort of being with someone who intimately understands the clash of cultures makes me feel less alone on my journey, and learning about new backgrounds also provides the challenge to acknowledge and embrace differences. Of all the things that’ve stemmed from this valuable experience, I’ve come to truly understand the depths of identity and the way it’s had a role in shaping each person I’ve met.


Though my parents made it a point for us to visit Taiwan as a family every couple of years, I lost connection with my cultural roots. Through the remainder of high school, undergrad, masters, and entry into my career, it became less of a priority to see my family abroad.

Then this past February, I intended to go back to Taiwan to visit my grandfather, but he died exactly one month before my arrival. When I finally made my way to Taiwan, I felt the overwhelming weight of everyone I had lost (my aunt, my grandparents) and brokenheartedly experienced my first trip back without them. Visiting their home — where I had spent so much of my younger years — struck the fault line of guilt, shame and sadness that I had been suppressing for years.

I stared at the lifeless kitchen where my grandma once filled with her vibrance as she would stand for hours on end—intuitively selecting seasonings, stirring savory stews while gently handling decadent desserts and chopping vegetables with such swift precision — it was like watching a one-woman gourmet symphony in flow. Her flavorful meals became the foundations of my mother’s arsenal of recipes.

As I made my way into the living room and sat in my grandpa’s cushioned armchair, I remembered him sipping tea and telling me his favorite stories about my mother in her younger years. In their old rooms — now used for storage — I recalled memories where I’d perch on their laps as they’d dote on me and shove little pouches of milk candies and pineapple cakes into my pockets before my mom could confiscate them. In all of their display cabinets were two decades worth of washed-out photos of me and my siblings, reminding them of the love they had for us that spanned across time and oceans.

The author and her mother.

On my last day in Taiwan, we journeyed through lush forests of the rolling Yang Ming mountains carrying bundles of incense, flowers and fruits to honor my grandparents. “Mom, dad, we’re here to see you — Alliey’s here to see you,” my mother announced with tears streaming down her face as she lit each bundle. With a flood of emotions and the stings of incense evaporating into thin mountain air, I dropped to her side completely lost in my grief.

As much as I longed for my grandparents, their absence and this shared time with my parents was the deepest reminder that I came from a culture that was not to be forgotten.


I still wonder what took me so long to return to Taiwan. Was there really no point in the last 15 years that I could’ve taken a week to see my family? The glaring answer that I couldn’t lie to myself about any longer was that for years I associated my cultural background with shame and the antithesis of acclimating to American culture. I couldn’t understand then that preserving my cultural identity didn’t automatically equate to the impediment of being a normal American girl. In my decision to divide the two, I allowed judgment to rule my life for so many years, and consequently all of my decisions were made out of fear instead of love.

Instead of deflecting questions now, I take every opportunity to explain any component of my culture to anyone who takes an interest, but more importantly, I make the effort to ask my family about their past experiences and the way immigrating shaped their identity. In so many ways, it is all a way for me to reacquaint myself with parts that I left behind and confidently move forward to define — for the first time — what being Asian American really means to me. It took me half my life to overcome this perception of shame and find a way to honor and celebrate my heritage, but in this journey, I know I will be able to continue this beautiful path to reconnection for the remainder of my life.

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‘Everyone was her sister’: Woman killed at synagogue honored

A photo of Lori Kaye, who was killed Saturday when a gunman opened fire inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue, is displayed Monday, April 29, 2019, at left, during Kaye’s funeral in Poway, Calif., as her daughter Hannah speaks at right. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Family and friends remembered a woman killed in a shooting at a Southern California synagogue as a generous person dedicated to spreading kindness, with her daughter telling the crowd Monday that she knows her mother would forgive the man who took her life as she worshipped.

A memorial service for Lori Kaye, 60, drew a packed congregation, including the three people wounded in the attack, federal and state lawmakers, a representative of the Israeli government, and city and police leaders.

Kaye’s daughter Hannah said she knows in her heart that her mother has forgiven the 19-year-old man who killed her Saturday at the Chabad of Poway near San Diego on the last day of a major Jewish holiday.

“Her light has reached all crevices of this planet,” Hannah Kaye said.

The daughter said she would miss singing in the car with her mother and dancing in the kitchen. Her mom always bought a second cup of coffee and bagel because she knew someone would want them, Hannah Kaye said.

“Everyone was her sister, her trusted confidante. Everyone was her friend,” Hannah Kaye said.

The synagogue’s rabbi, Yishoel Goldstein, lost one of his fingers in the shooting and comforted worshippers with his hand wrapped in blue bandages. Noya Dahan, 8, and her uncle Almog Peretz both suffered leg wounds in the attack but were released from the hospital and honored Kaye on Monday.

The U.S. State Department’s new envoy on anti-Semitism told the packed synagogue that the Trump administration is committed to fighting the evil wherever it lurks.

“I’m here to say we are at war with these people,” Elan Carr said, vowing to fight anti-Semitism in “every city in the United States.”

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Palu recovery in red tape months after Indonesian tragedy

Six months after Palu was ripped apart by an earthquake, tsunami and liquefying soil that sucked neighborhoods into the earth and killed thousands, a second crisis is looming as recovery efforts stumble and a city that feels ignored begs for humanitarian assistance.

Thousands of people in this city on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island are still living in sweltering tent cities, while construction of new permanent homes has yet to start and almost a third of temporary housing is unoccupied after aid groups and authorities failed to connect the units to essential utilities.

President Joko Widodo, who is seeking a second term in elections this week, and his deputy promised that financial assistance to those whose homes were destroyed or whose loved ones were killed would be rapidly distributed. But not a cent has been paid out.

“It’s like we’re forgotten,” said Ade Zahra, a mother of eight living in a tent city who says it’s a miracle her family survived when the quake turned their village to mud and engulfed their home.

“We’ve received no more assistance in the past two months, not only the government, but also humanitarian groups and volunteers who used to provide a lot,” she said.

The city’s struggle to recover highlights a broader problem of neglect often suffered by remote regions in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago home to hundreds of ethnic groups. Far from the center of economic, political and cultural power in populous Java, the region around Palu has a history of sectarian conflict and perceived indifference to its plight could embolden hard-liners.

City officials, meanwhile, are worried frustration among the displaced has reached a breaking point.

As anger among the refugees simmers, Widodo is focused on securing his reelection. Sulawesi mostly voted for Widodo in 2014, but he risks losing ground there this time. That could be crucial if the race is tighter than polls, which are predicting a strong Widodo victory.

The Sept. 28 earthquake spawned a large localized tsunami that wiped out coastal areas, while liquefaction caused by the shaking turned entire neighborhoods into rivers of sludge. The disaster killed more than 4,400 people, making it the world’s deadliest seismic event in 2018.

The central government, at the time still grappling with the aftermath of deadly earthquakes on Lombok Island, appealed for international aid but didn’t declare a national disaster, which would’ve opened the door wider to foreign assistance. It prohibited international aid organizations from operating on the ground.

Though the tragedy is fading from the national consciousness, large parts of Palu look like they were struck only yesterday, a daily reminder to residents of the horrors they lived through.

About 90% of roads have been repaired, according to Palu’s mayor, but the shoreline is littered in debris and hollowed out buildings that lean precariously.

Waves wash inside Apung Palu Mosque, which once sat majestically on pillars in Palu Bay. People looking for valuables pick through a vast jumble of personal belongings and house debris, all that’s left of once thriving communities.

In Sigi district bordering Palu, several dozen white tents emblazoned with the U.N. refugee agency’s logo are home to hundreds of evacuees, who look with envy and anger at temporary housing across the road — some of it occupied, some empty and some still unfinished.

During the day, the tents are blazing hot and at night refugees, who include a man incapacitated by a stroke and a boy with cerebral palsy, shiver.

Frustrated residents recall that not long after the disaster Vice President Jusuf Kalla visited and promised they’d soon get money to help rebuild their lives. Instead things seem to be getting worse.

They have clean drinking water, but a mobile kitchen provided by an aid group closed due to lack of donations. Members of some families have jobs, but others have almost nothing, their former livelihoods gone. Some beg for money.

Zahra, the mother of eight, said she hopes the government finally fulfills its promise.

“Have mercy on us,” she said.

Officially, about 173,000 people were displaced by the disaster and about 20,000 are still living in tents that Palu’s mayor says were designed to last three months. The actual number without stable housing is much higher.

At a block of eight buildings built by a charitable foundation run by Kalla’s business empire, a banner announced they were handed over to the city on Feb. 14. All sit empty and unconnected to utilities, the only sign of life a few cows grazing between them.

Temporary housing built nearby by another organization is occupied, some by residents of a neighborhood wiped out by liquefaction.

Umira, who uses a single name, wept as she recalled the ordeal her family has endured since the night they fled a sea of moving trees and houses. Eight of her relatives were killed, including her grandson.

They’ve gone from sheltering in a sports stadium to fashioning their own makeshift lodging in the ruins of a house to finally being assigned to a room in a temporary housing unit.

“We all cried with happiness,” she said of the moment two months ago when they learned they would have housing. “Even my husband cried and hugged the wall of our new home.”

The family still gets aid, Umira said, such as staple foods and cooking oil, though it’s distributed without any predictable schedule.

When the aid runs out they rely on income from running an on-call motorcycle taxi service.

“If there is a call, we can eat,” she said. “If not, we will only eat rice with salt.”

Presley Tampubolon, the head of Palu’s disaster agency who oversees temporary housing, said the need for accommodation has been greater than anticipated.

For every house destroyed or damaged, there would often be several generations of a family living in it. He said it would be “inhuman” to expect such families to fit into the 3-meter-by-4-meter (10-foot-by-13-foot) rooms that have been built.

He said the government and aid groups have built temporary buildings with 5,300 total rooms that can accommodate nearly 41,000 people. But about 1,600 of those rooms are empty because they weren’t connected to water, electricity or sanitation, he said.

Hidayat, the mayor of Palu who uses a single name, said the central government has stopped building temporary homes despite the need and construction of permanent dwellings hasn’t started.

Compounding the problem is that the central government’s social affairs and public works ministries haven’t released “mourning allowances” and funds for people to build new homes.

He said he’s worried anger will soon boil over.

The social affairs ministry’s director of social protection and disaster victims, Margo Wiyono, said the ministry has verified 1,906 of the 4,400 names of heirs who would be entitled to mourning allowances and has proposed the finance ministry pay them.

He said they were still investigating the rest.

“We don’t want the allowances worth 15 million rupiah ($1,050) per heir to fall into the hands of irresponsible people,” he said.

The budget director-general at the finance ministry, Askolani, said it’s in the process of approving money to pay the allowances. He said releasing funds for new housing is contingent on several factors, including reviewing local government data and identifying areas for new settlements that are safe from liquefaction.

Hidayat isn’t waiting. He said the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation has agreed to build 3,000 new homes in the Palu area, but he is urging organizations and local governments from around the country to build more.

“Our regional capabilities are very limited,” he said. “As the mayor, I’m begging for help to many humanitarian groups and institutions.”

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Girls in gangs ‘failed by authorities’

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Media captionNequela Whittaker was jailed at 17 – she is now a youth worker

Girls involved in gang crime are being overlooked and failed by the authorities, the children’s commissioner for England has said.

Half of children involved with gangs are girls and they “desperately need help to get out”, Anne Longfield said.

They are often used to carry knives or drugs because they are less likely to be stopped by police, she told the BBC.

The Local Government Association said “limited funding” meant councils had to prioritise those at immediate risk.

‘Under the radar’

Ms Longfield told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she was writing to the government and local authorities calling for a review into support for female gang members, who were “not getting the help they need”.

“Teachers, social workers, GPs and youth workers need to be doing more to help get these girls out of gangs,” she said.

“So many are trapped with nowhere to go.”

Two-thirds of children in England assessed by councils as being involved in gangs are boys (66%) and one third girls (34%), figures analysed by the children’s commissioner’s office suggest.

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest a higher figure – that as many as half may be girls.

But the Metropolitan Police Service’s gangs matrix database lists 3,000 male gang members known to the authorities in London and just 18 female gang members.

And London’s deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, said a lot of girls were going “under the radar”.

Image caption Anne Longfield is writing to ask the government for a review into how girls involved in gangs are supported

Nequela Whittaker, who used to be in a gang but is now a youth worker, said girls as young as 11 were now telling her they carried weapons for “boyfriends, other counterparts and gang members”.

“As young as these girls are, they are not scared to carry a weapon and if something went wrong to use it,” she told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“They are the ones who are getting away with it, mostly because they are not looked upon as a person of interest, as opposed to a young male.”

Sexually exploited

Until recently, “Samira”, 18, was a member of a south London gang who had groomed her into carrying weapons from the age of 12.

“It would mostly be kitchen knives, for gang members and for my own protection,” she said.

Asked if she was aware of the harm this could lead to, she replied: “All you think about is yourself. You don’t really care about what happens to the other person.

“All you want to do is protect yourself and you’re willing to do anything to do that.”

She said she had also seen other girls being sexually exploited by senior gang members.

“I saw people getting stabbed, getting shot, people getting beaten up and getting robbed,” she said.

She is now pregnant, which she said had allowed her to escape gang culture.

Image caption Police say gender should not be a factor in who is targeted by stop and search

Ms Linden, said it was heartbreaking to hear young girls talk about being groomed and abused.

“We are doing our best to engage with those we know about and make sure we are actively reaching out to communities, to ensure we are working with young women and girls who are being exploited.

“We haven’t forgotten them.”

The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils across England, said: “Councils are being forced to divert the limited funding they have left away from preventative work, including young offenders teams and youth work, into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.”

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‘I changed my gender after my wife got dementia’

Image copyright AoC
Image caption Stephanie, a skilled carpenter, has gained beauty therapy qualifications at her local college since her transition

When Steve Gilbert met his wife, Jill, he had just left the Royal Marines, unnerved by a growing realisation that he was attracted to men – “especially the hunky guys”.

Almost 40 years on, Jill has dementia and lives in a care home – and Steve, now Stephanie, has had gender reassignment surgery.

“I always felt female,” Stephanie says.

“But you learn to hide everything when growing up – to fit in to society.”

Steve and Jill were both into sport and fitness when they met, at their local leisure centre, near Redruth, Cornwall.

Image copyright S Gilbert
Image caption Steve and Jill on their wedding day

Jill was 18 years older, with three children from a previous marriage, so they decided to just “play it by ear” but as time went on, Stephanie says: “I fell in love with her and it just got deeper and deeper.”

Steve told Jill he felt he should be female – but when she told him marriage would change this, he put his misgivings to one side to concentrate on being a good husband and immersed himself in sport.

In his 20s, he was particularly successful at judo, coming third in his weight category in the national judo championships three years running.

But rather than going away, the feeling that he should be female grew – and in his late 40s, he decided he wanted to live as a woman.

“And, of course, that’s when the difficulties started in the marriage – arguments,” Stephanie says.

Image copyright S Gilbert
Image caption Steve immersed himself in sport, coming third in his weight category in the national judo championships three years running

After a referral to a gender identity clinic in Newton Abbot, Devon, Steve was accepted for hormone treatment – but, Jill, then in her late 60s, hated the idea.

They had all but decided to separate but Jill had a series of family bereavements and was also ill herself, with breast cancer and, later, arthritis.

So Steve decided to put his transition on hold “until things were sorted out”.

“I couldn’t put her through it.”

Soon afterwards, Jill began to show the early signs of dementia.

“At the beginning, you notice little things… and then you think there’s more to it as she repeats herself and then you find that you got like half a dozen tins of mustard powder and loads and loads of kitchen paper but no toilet paper. You think, ‘No, something’s not right.'”

Jill never recovered properly from a general anaesthetic almost nine years ago and Steve, a skilled carpenter and joiner, whose work took him all over Cornwall, became increasingly concerned about her safety while she was at home on her own.

‘Gender neutral’

“In the end, I had to take the knobs off the cooker,” Stephanie says.

“It got too much and I gave up work completely to look after her full time.”

Giving up work also gave Steve the opportunity to live as Stephanie full time.

“At home, I would just be who I wanted to be and try to look after Jill – but it wasn’t brilliant,” she says.

“I had to sort of almost be gender neutral so it was indistinguishable. She still had some of her faculties about her.”

‘Couldn’t cope’

Becoming a full-time carer was exhausting. If Jill needed the toilet in the night, she was often unable to find her way back to bed.

“As the illness developed, I ended up getting fine-tuned to her. So as soon as I heard her get up, I’d be awake instantly,” Stephanie says.

Eventually, Stephanie became so stressed and depressed that she was admitted to hospital for five days.

Jill’s children took over as carers but quickly realised how tough it was and called in social services.

“It sort of got took out of my hands. I knew she was going to have to go into care but it ended up being sooner rather than later.

“I couldn’t cope any longer,” Stephanie says .

‘An inspiration’

With Jill in a care home, Stephanie began to pick up the pieces of her life.

She went back to the gender clinic and was prescribed hormones – and there were other big changes.

“I decided I would pursue my dream of beauty therapy, I’d looked at it previously when I was Steve,” she says.

Stephanie was accepted at Cornwall College, which has “a really good diversity policy”.

“I think it just helped educate them a bit more,” she says, “because, as a trans person, I’ve always tried to let people know we’re just human beings who want to live our lives.”

Image copyright AoC
Image caption Tutors at Cornwall College say Stephanie is “an inspiration”

Her course tutor, Paula Riley, has described Stephanie as “an inspiration in her open approach to transitioning”.

Paula says Stephanie’s college work was always exceptional despite the emotional upheaval of gender reassignment and her wife moving into a care home.

In November 2017, at 59, Stephanie finally underwent surgery and returned to the college early in 2018 to complete a course in Swedish massage.

Her resilience led to her being awarded 2018 Adult Student of the Year by the Association of Colleges – and this September she will begin a higher level course in sports massage.

Image copyright Cornwall College

Sadly, Jill’s dementia has progressed to the extent that she no longer recognises her husband of 30 years at all, even if Stephanie wears a short wig and gender neutral clothes.

Stephanie now has a salon in her home and does treatments for friends, including other trans women, but she still makes her living as a carpenter and joiner on building sites, as the pay is so much better.

She finds the work tough as the hormone therapy means she has lost a lot of strength, but still displays the tenacity and humour that made her so popular at college.

“I’m back on the building site, educating the guys, winding them up something rotten,” she says.

“It’s like, oh, they just really cringe and I say, ‘Haallo!’

“I’ve got to be careful I don’t get done for sexual harassment. It’s so funny. We have a good laugh.”

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