Dining News

Everyone’s Windowsill Herb Garden Is Dying

Cherished friends,

Thank you for being here to honor the lives of those whose journeys meant so much to us all, and whose stories are, fondly and inevitably, coming to an end. I’m speaking of course of the herbs I planted on my windowsill at the beginning of the pandemic. What remarkable lives they have led. However, due to my negligence and realization that I’m just not that good at growing windowsill herbs and sort of did it just as a thing to do, the time has come to say goodbye.

We first took the herbs, Scallions and Sage and of course baby Celery, home from City Fresh grocery store in March. How fresh and green they all looked that first day, each filled with promise, despite my knowledge that I have managed to kill many an “indestructible” succulent. Still, I tended to these lives with care, watching roots spread in shot glasses full of water, and planting Sage in an old mug while dreaming of the brown butter sauces I’d spoon over future ravioli. My months inside would not end in depression and perhaps scurvy, I thought. Here, my saviors of novel frugality! Here, my hopes.

As the months went on, the garden thrived. Well, not Celery. While I planted her base in shallow water and she grew some leaves, all that really happened was she got a slimy bottom with not much growth. But Sage and Scallions seemed happy. I soon transported Scallions out of their shot glass full of water and into a coffee can full of soil, in hopes that they’d grow bigger and stronger than before. Sage sprouted new leaves from its mug. As go the plants, so goes the nation, I told myself. By the time Scallions grew tall and thick, I’d be congregating maskless with old friends in bars again, subjecting them to my unshielded Scallion breath.

But my garden faced struggle, such as when a bird absolutely plucked one of the Scallion siblings from its coffee can home after I moved it onto the balcony, or when I realized that it’s Summer and I don’t really put Sage in anything except around Thanksgiving. There was the great storm of early July, which nearly drowned Scallions. There were the droughts of mid-April, May, June, and July during which I was just sort of distracted and depressed and forgot to water everything, from which Sage has never quite recovered. And there was the mild panic of late July, in which I realized a recipe called for Scallions, and even though using them in recipes is precisely what I grew them for, I worried by picking one I’d be undoing months of work and somehow jinxing the entire country’s epidemiological progress.

Scallions only really yielded flavorless, hollow greens as I attempted to preserve the white roots, even though that’s the part I wanted, and Sage’s leaves were never big enough to impressively adorn any dish. And so, we bid them farewell. Perhaps on another plane they will find a new destiny. But we can all take heart in knowing they will be reunited with their siblings from around the world: Celery base, Sourdough Starter, and DIY Embroidery Kit. May your memories be a blessing.

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Breaking New

Woman’s 30 Minutes With Dying Father Due To Quarantine

In the last moments she would ever have with her father, Natalia Southern had just 30 minutes to say goodbye.

As she entered his hospital room, she couldn’t touch her dad or hold his hand. She couldn’t whisper in his ear how much she loved him — she couldn’t even come within 6 feet of him.

Her mother and brother were not allowed to be in the room with her as he lay dying. She was alone.

Southern’s father, 88-year-old Manuel Nunes, did not have the coronavirus. Neither, as far as she knows, does she.

But Southern had traveled to his hospital in Perth, Western Australia, from Melbourne, where cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks amid a breakdown in the country’s quarantine procedures.

The compassionate release exemption she was granted by government officials to leave Melbourne’s strict lockdown and travel to her father’s bedside as he died from vascular disease complications extended only to that brief goodbye.

When he died less than 10 hours later, she was alone, back in the hotel in downtown Perth that she and other arrivals in the city were being forced to quarantine in for two weeks.

“The greatest fear you have is that you’ll never make it in time and that you’re not there in the end,” she told BuzzFeed News through tears in a phone interview from her hotel room. “Even though I got there for 30 minutes, I would’ve stayed with him to the end if I could.”

Southern’s story is illustrative of the heartbreak facing those in Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, as they endure a second lockdown aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. There were 403 new confirmed coronavirus infections and five deaths in Victoria on Thursday, according to state leader Premier Daniel Andrews. That number was only down slightly from Wednesday’s record of 484 new cases.

Until recent weeks, Australia had seen relatively few cases of the coronavirus. All incoming passengers from overseas have been forced to quarantine in hotel rooms for 14 days as a precautionary measure, and the federal government shut many businesses and ordered size limits on social gatherings in March as part of an aggressive social distancing campaign.

Over time, life slowly returned to some sense of normalcy. There had even been discussions of opening up a “travel bubble” with New Zealand, where the virus has effectively been eradicated.

But then the second wave arrived.

Officials have been holding an inquiry into just how the virus reemerged in such large numbers in Victoria, with evidence suggesting most cases could be linked to the hotel quarantine program, with allegations of poorly trained security staff and even sex among some private security guards and returned travelers.

Mask-wearing is now mandatory in Melbourne where residents are enduring another six-week lockdown that is projected to take a toll of billions of dollars on the Australian economy.

People are allowed out of their homes only for essential reasons and large gatherings are once again banned with police issuing hefty fines for rule-breakers. In one case, 16 guests at a house party were fined a total of $26,000 AUD, roughly $18,000 USD, when authorities discovered the gathering after being alerted to an unusually large KFC order placed after midnight.

Other states have closed their borders with Victoria for the first time in a century.

Southern, who first shared her story with Australia’s public broadcaster on Wednesday, told BuzzFeed News she understands why the strict measures are needed. While lockdown has been tough for her sporty children, an 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter, she said her family has just been carrying on as best they can.

But she’s still shaken by how difficult it was for her to get permission to be with her father, having to navigate a jumbled mess of confusing bureaucracy, mixed responses, and ultimately the strict and sterile farewell she was finally permitted.

“I don’t have a problem with them saying you have to wear a mask, you have to stay indoors, you have to self-isolate,” she said. “But the system says they will allow for compassion. It means you try to find a way to balance safety with the needs of the individual in that extraordinary circumstance, and that’s not what I am seeing.

“I don’t know of any circumstance where if your immediate family is expected to die — is that not the most extreme circumstance? What else could there be?”

What hurts most, Southern said, is that she cannot be there to comfort her grieving mother — or receive comfort herself. Instead, she must process her grief alone in a strange and soulless hotel room.

“I wouldn’t care about the 14 days in the hotel. I really wouldn’t,” she said as she broke down crying, “but I don’t have anyone, and I know my mom is at home and all I can do is call her.

“Sometimes [when grieving], you just want to sit in silence, but if you were with them that silence with someone can be valuable because that person is there and you can see their face and you can feel their pain — but I don’t have even that.”

Now, she faces the agonizing decision of whether to try to have her partner and their children try to travel to Perth for a funeral and endure the quarantine themselves.

She’s not sure what to do. Still, she’s grateful she made it at all to say goodbye to her father.

Manuel Nunes died more than half a century after he first landed in Australia from his native Portugal, seeking a better life. He worked as a carpenter, traveling the country and helping to build towns in some of Australia’s most remote areas. He married and fathered a son and then a daughter, who was there, as best she could be, to say goodbye.

“I think he waited for me,” she said.

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Breaking New

Staten Island hospital nurse accused of stealing, using credit card from her dying Covid-19 patient

Danielle Conti, 43, has been charged with grand larceny, petty larceny and criminal possession of stolen property after ringing up charges on two of Anthony Catapano’s credit cards while hospitalized at Staten Island University Hospital with coronavirus, according to the New York Police Department.

Catapano, 70, was hospitalized on April 4 after getting sick from coronavirus, his daughter, Tara Catapano, told CNN. He was lucid when the alleged theft occurred and later died on April 12 from complications of the virus.

“I was in shock and disbelief,” Tara Catapano said. “Obviously, I knew it had to be a hospital employee because visitors weren’t really allowed.”

Tara Catapano, who had been paying her father’s bills since her mother passed away in 2014, said she normally doesn’t track her father’s spending closely.

However, after he died and she received a credit card statement for gasoline — which she said her father always paid for in cash — she then saw the charge date occurred on April 9, when her father was “in the hospital, literally fighting for his life.”

Tara Catapano said the police showed her surveillance footage from a ShopRite of what appeared to be Conti paying for groceries using her father’s card.

“They take an oath to protect, not to harm,” Tara Catapano said.

Other belongings unaccounted for include her father’s eyeglasses, cell phone, cash in the wallet, phone chargers and pictures. It’s not clear what happened to those belongings and it isn’t certain they were intentionally stolen.

In a statement provided to CNN, Christian Preston, the director of public affairs for Staten Island University Hospital, said Conti, who has worked at the hospital since 2007, “has been temporarily suspended and faces termination in response to the felony charges.” He also said the hospital is “working closely with the law enforcement authorities and the hospital is conducting its own investigation.”

Efforts to reach Conti were not successful. It was not immediately clear whether she has an attorney.

An NYPD spokesperson told CNN that Conti has been issued a desk appearance, or order to appear in Staten Island criminal court, for sometime in September.

Tara Catapano told CNN she just wants to know why Conti did what she allegedly did.

“I would want to know why she took advantage of my father while he was on his deathbed,” she said. “And I would want to know how she would feel if someone did that to a loved one of hers — whether it was a parent or grandparent. I don’t think when people do these things they think of it like that.

“But he is my father, he is a person,” Tara Catapano said. “I am disgusted [Conti was] supposed to be taking care of him and instead … stole from him.”

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Breaking New

Coronavirus Covid-19 patients are dying alone, tech can help them say goodbye

For those with the worst cases of Covid-19, this is the harsh reality. Patients are unable to see or speak with their families; their families are unable to say “I love you” one last time.

That was the situation Harvey Rickles and his family faced when his mother-in-law, 89-year-old Margie Ulman, was admitted to the ICU.

He says Ulman was “fiercely independent” and very much still full of life. She was activity involved in real estate and completed her last sale on March 5. Once in the ICU, however, her condition quickly deteriorated.

Unable to visit her because of the restrictions on visitors, her physician, Dr. Joanne Kuntz, director of palliative care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, suggested they set up a Zoom conference call. Dr. Kuntz set up the equipment in the hospital and Ulman’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren throughout the country were able to come together and visit her at a time she needed it the most.

Margie Ulman with great-grandson Graham Ulman.

“We all really appreciate that we could visit with her and talk to her until almost the very end,” Rickles told CNN.

Dr. Kuntz wrote in a personal essay that it’s moments like this when health care turns into human care.

“One of the most important questions we ask is, ‘If time were short, what would be most important to you? How would you want to spend it?'” she writes. “The answer we hear time and again is this: ‘I want to spend it with my family, my children, my grandchildren.'”   

And the only answer to that right now is through technology.

After only three days in the hospital, Ulman died. Rickles says Dr. Kuntz’s gesture helped give his family an opportunity that a lot of others might not be getting right now, a chance to say goodbye.

“We felt that it provided a lot of relief. It gave us an opportunity to see her and have contact with her and share our thoughts with her,” Rickles said. “It was cathartic.”

Harvey Rickles and family speaking with his mother-in-law, Margie Ulman.

Pivot to giving

Stories like this motivated Sara Rodell.

She received a text message from a friend asking for help finding tablets, laptops, phones or other devices that could be donated to hospitals in order to connect patients to their families. The friend heard about the problem from a nurse.

“The nurse was seeing patients pass away without getting the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones,” Rodell told CNN. “I feel like everything is making you cry these days, but that was just very emotional.”

Rodell, an entrepreneur and founder of the company Loop & Tie, reached out to colleagues in the tech industry to see what they could do. Within a day, they created Covid Tech Connect, a non-profit dedicated to getting devices to hospitals. With the financial sponsorship of The Giving Back Fund, they set up a GoFundMe to accept donations in order to purchase devices and ship out the donated equipment they receive from various tech companies.

So far, they have raised over $165,000 and expect 2,600 new devices to be donated that will go out to about 40 hospitals.

A lot of attention has been brought to the need for ventilators and PPE, but Rodell believes equipment for communicating is just as vital.

“I think there’s a human element here that’s really important to appreciate. I was imagining what it would feel like to be a person that has been alone in a hospital and wanting to talk to my family, and not have the ability to do that,” Rodell said. “I think a lifeline that stands out is how easily we can still call each other and it just feels really scary to imagine not having that asset.”

Hospitals that Rodell is in touch with say they expect to need about 15 devices to make a difference helping patients who don’t have their own devices or who are taken to the hospital without their phones or chargers.

For those who have lost loved ones, and for frontline health care workers who’ve lost patients, the grieving process will take a lot of time.

Rodell hopes that’s where the work of Covid Tech Connect will help.

Rickles says being able to communicate with his mother-in-law provided everyone in his family a little bit of comfort.

“We had some opportunity to have visual and verbal contact with her and I think it definitely helped a lot. I think it helped her too,” Rickles said. “I hope more hospitals are able to adapt, especially during this time. It helps make a bad situation better for sure.”

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Celebrity Entertaiment

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Recap: Is Richard Webber Dying?

The beginning of the end? Grey’s Anatomy hinted that longtime character Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) might be nearing his end on the show during the Thursday, March 26 episode. While giving a speech at a conference, he started having delusions and speaking nonsense and everyone was concerned. Catch up on what you might have missed this week below.

Webber, Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) and Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) were attending a conference where he was supposed to speak. He was spending a lot of time preparing his presentation, which he seemed to be doing with his estranged wife Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen).

Kelly McCreary James Pickens Jr Greys Anatomy
Kelly McCreary and James Pickens Jr. on Greys Anatomy. ABC

However, their supposed rekindling was just an illusion — Webber had imagined Catherine’s presence at the conference the whole time while she was back at Grey Sloan Memorial preparing to watch his speech.

Webber claimed during his speech that he found the cure to cancer thanks to the help of his wife, referring to some pillow talk with Catherine that he had imagined.

“What is he doing? What is happening?” Catherine said while watching the footage.

Kim Raver Richard Flood Kelly McCreary Greys Anatomy
Kim Raver Richard Flood Kelly McCreary in Greys Anatomy. ABC

He made no sense to everyone, and Pierce ended up cutting his speech short and calling for medical personnel. “Someone please call 911. I think he’s having a stroke,” she said before the stream was cut off. Meanwhile, he had no idea who she was.


Even though Catherine thought at first that Webber had just relapsed and was drunk, that wasn’t the case.

Teddy’s Secrets Revealed

Meanwhile, Teddy had an entirely different experience at the conference. She met up with old friend Clare, a woman that she shared a room with alongside Allison, their friend that died on September 11. Clare and Allison were dating, but Allison was having a secret affair with Teddy. When Teddy ran into her old roommate who was aware of her secret, she had to apologize and referenced her current love triangle with Tom Koracick (Greg Germann) and Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd).

“I thought no one could love more than one person at once,” Teddy said. “Allison did love me, yes, but she loved you too.”

Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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Breaking New

Bernie Madoff says he’s dying and wants out of prison

Madoff, 81, has terminal kidney failure and a life expectancy of less than 18 months, according to the filing.
He was arrested in December 2008 on allegations that the prestigious asset management firm he ran in Manhattan was in fact a pyramid-type scheme that swindled billions of dollars from thousands of people. He pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges related to money laundering, perjury and falsifying financial documents. He began his prison term in July 2009.

Madoff has been serving his sentence at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

When the court sentenced him, “it was clear that Madoff’s 150-year prison sentence was symbolic for three reasons: retribution, deterrence, and for the victims,” the court filing states. “This Court must now consider whether keeping Madoff incarcerated … is truly in furtherance of statutory sentencing goals and our society’s value and understanding of compassion.”

Madoff said in the request for compassionate release that he “does not dispute the severity of his crimes.”

In September, Madoff submitted a request to the Bureau of Prisons for compassionate release, according to a letter from his attorney, Brandon Sample, to a warden at the Butner Federal Correction Complex. The letter states that Madoff had been living in the prison’s hospice facility.

The request was denied on December 5. In a letter detailing the denial, the warden did not dispute Madoff’s condition or his life expectancy, but noted that Madoff has refused dialysis.

“Mr. Madoff was accountable for a loss to investors of over $13 billion,” the warden’s letter states. “Accordingly, in light of the nature and circumstances of his offense, his release at this time would minimize the severity of his offense. Therefore, although he meets the criteria for a (compassionate release), his (reduction in sentence) request is denied.”

Madoff is now asking a judge to reverse that decision, saying in the Wednesday filing that he presents “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for compassionate release.

He has also asked President Donald Trump to commute his sentence.

In June, it was reported that Madoff filed a clemency petition, though it is unclear when the request was submitted. The petition is still listed as “pending” on the Department of Justice website.
Madoff’s health has been in the news for years. In January 2014, CNBC reported receiving an email from him in which he said he had a heart attack a month earlier and was suffering from stage 4 kidney disease.

Madoff’s son Mark died by suicide in 2010. His other son, Andrew, died of cancer in 2014.

In a rare 2013 interview, Madoff told CNN from prison that he was “responsible for my son Mark’s death and that’s very, very difficult.”

“I live with that. I live with the remorse, the pain I caused everybody, certainly my family, and the victims,” he said.

Following his arrest, the Madoff family’s assets were auctioned off, and the government appointed a trustee who worked to recoup the $17.5 billion in principal investments that Madoff’s firm made. The Madoff Recovery Initiative has so far paid out nearly $13 billion, and another fund has paid out more than $2 billion to tens of thousands of victims, according to the funds’ websites.

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