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Samaritans’ IMs reach out to teens in crisis

Adrian Walker

Genetic clue carries hope

Suicide prevention agency adopts new way to interact By Akilah Johnson GLOBE STAFF

They’re cute, the tiny mice that jump around in the tank in Dr. Martin Pollak’s lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But they are more than that; they offer clues to a malady that has bedeviled me for much of my life. Pollak uses the mice to study the genetic causes of kidney disease. Specifically, he has spent several years trying to unravel why kidney disease is far more common among African-Americans than other ethnic groups. Finding the gene he now believes is responsible is the first step in developing treatments, or eventually a cure. As luck would have it, I am a member of one of those black families in which fatal kidney disease has struck. So I have more than a passing interest in this work. The statistics are startling: Though AfricanAmericans are 12 percent of the population, we represent about a third of the kidney failures. Kidney disease is about five times more likely to affect African-Americans than other groups. We represent about 35 percent of the people waiting for transplants. Pollak’s group of researchers isolated a gene at the root of the disease. Known as APOL1, it is a variant that wards off sleeping sickness, a disease mainly borne by tsetse flies that kills tens of thousands of Africans a year. Sleeping sickness is unknown in North America, but the gene is carried by as many as 12 percent of African-Americans. And carriers are five times more likely than whites to develop nondiabetic kidney disease. Pollak estimates the genetic mutation evolved thousands of years ago. ‘‘Until recently, it was more important to be protected against sleeping sickness than kidney disease,’’ said Pollak, using the term recently in the relative sense. ‘‘These genetic variants are so common that I don’t even like using the word ‘mutation,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘It’s really very common, and explains almost all of the variation’’ between ethnic groups. Those who inherit the gene from one parent have a slightly elevated risk of kidney disease, he explained. But those who get it from both parents have more than 10 times the likelihood of developing kidney disease than the general population does. As with any mystery, many questions abound: Why do some people at high risk develop kidney disease, while other people don’t? If the gene is the cause, what’s the treatment? Could there ever be a cure? These are all questions Pollak is wrestling with in his lab near Fenway Park. People with advanced kidney disease have limited options. The major courses of treatment are dialysis, which is debilitating, or transplant. That may not change for years, but Pollak’s discovery could be an important first step. Certainly, any progress would be important to many people who wonder if their family histories indicate risk. My mother died at age 60 in 1993, after more than 20 years on dialysis. She and her doctor strongly suspected that her mother had died of the same thing — their symptoms were similar — though her medical care in the late 1940s was so spotty that it was impossible to say for sure. Thousands of families could tell similar stories. Though kidney disease doesn’t have the public profile of, say, sickle cell anemia, its effects are no less devastating. Though he has been researching ethnicity and kidney disease for 15 years, Pollak may be closer to the beginning than the end. ‘‘We want to understand — at the level of the molecule and the cell — how these are damaging kidneys,’’ he said. ‘‘If we can understand that, we can begin treating people with kidney disease — and even better, prevent people at high risk from getting it.’’

FRAMINGHAM — The clicking computer keys type out the same empathy that these teen volunteers use when answering phone calls at the Samaritans crisis center. ‘‘Um-hms’’ and ‘‘un-huhs’’ typed into an instant message window must do the work usually conveyed by verbal cues. Text shorthand and emoticons are no-nos, so there won’t be any ‘‘IDKs’’ instead of ‘‘I don’t knows,’’ or smiling faces and concerned expressions. Still, all conversations, be they on the phone or online, start pretty much the same: ‘‘Hello. What



Ashley Campisano (standing) of Medfield High School and Jessica Kruger of Framingham High School volunteer with the Samaritans.

Woman killed in blaze in kitchen

Somerville mourns beloved 95-year-old By Alexander C. Kaufman GLOBE CORRESPONDENT


Becky Burrill of Harwich walked near a section of a collapsed lot at Herring Cove Beach this month.

Sunset fears

Erosion threatens a cherished stretch at tip of Cape By Peter Schworm GLOBE STAFF

PROVINCETOWN — A sublime stretch on the tip on Cape Cod, Herring Cove Beach is a rare East Coast spot to watch the sun set over the water and even has a parking lot that runs right up to the water. But that proximity comes at a cost, and steady erosion has gnawed away the shoreline, recently causing sections of the parking lot and a protective wall to give way. The scope of the damage — four separate breaches since Christmas — has raised concern that the beach may have to be closed this summer for repairs.

Beyond that, residents fear that the prized vantage point, known simply as the ‘‘sunset lot,’’ may before long disappear from the landscape altogether, if coastal officials eventually choose not to fight the waves but simply retreat. ‘‘It’s a tragedy,’’ said Elaine Anderson, a selectwoman in Provincetown. ‘‘It’s a very special place, and this is very serious.’’ George Price, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which manages the beach, said he is confident repairs can be completed in time for the beach to open this summer. But the deterioration of the macBEACH, Page B3

Childs’s allegiance to GOP scrutinized Ex-Democrat seeks Frank’s House seat By Melissa Tabeek and Kristina Finn GLOBE CORRESPONDENTS

If Republican Elizabeth Childs happens to win the race to succeed US Representative Barney Frank in Congress, the rigidly conservative Republicans who control the US House might have reason to wonder about her party allegiance. That is because Childs, a Brookline psychiatrist, has been either a registered Democrat or an unenrolled vot-

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.



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brings you to chat today?’’ Samaritans, the nearly 40-year-old suicide prevention organization, modernized its outreach efforts this month by launching a teen-to-teen instant messaging service called IM Hear_, a project in the works for four years. ‘‘We’re raising a whole generation of people who don’t hear their own voices,’’ said Eileen Davis, director of the Samaritans Framingham office. ‘‘They can be . . . having conversations with friends or just be in crisis, and it’s all online with all kinds of windows open.’’ The goal of the instant messaging service is for teens to reach teens, whose crises — depression, suicide, bullying, sexuality — are more acknowledged today but who seldom reach out via the telephone hot line, which generates most of its calls from peo-


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‘I don’t think the party is as critical as the person,’ said Elizabeth Childs, a Republican running for Congress. er for the last two decades. And she has voted in 11 Democratic state and presidential primaries since 1996, according to a review of her voting records in Brookline. Not once has she opted for a Republican ballot. To be sure, Childs was the state’s mental health commissioner under

Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, although the biography on her campaign website highlights her family camping experience in Alaska before mentioning her appointment by Romney. On that website, childsforconCHILDS, Page B3

SOMERVILLE — Even as her eyesight and hearing deteriorated, 95year-old Mary Giordano lived independently in her two-story house on Boston Avenue and until recently made a daily trek — 1 mile each way — to buy groceries. As on most days, she woke before 7 yesterday morning to brew coffee and make breakfast. But apparently her clothes ignited and flames quickly engulfed the kitchen. She died before firefighters arrived. ‘‘She couldn’t extinguish it,’’ Somerville Fire Deputy Chief Jim Lucia said in a phone interview. Lucia estimated the fire, which was confined to the kitchen, caused $75,000 in damage to the three-bedroom, single-family home at 84 Boston Ave. As carpenters boarded up the eight front windows of the gray wooden house where Giordano raised two daughters, grief-stricken relatives and neighbors stood outside. People went in and out of the house gathering legal documents for the death certificate. Giordano’s granddaughter Sara Connelly said she could not talk yesterday afternoon as she surveyed the house. ‘‘I can’t right now,’’ she said as a tear streamed down from behind sunglasses. ‘‘It’s too soon, too soon.’’ Maria Silva, 61, who lives across the street, said she ran to Giordano’s SOMERVILLE , Page B2


Show of solidarity

Bridgewater State students plan to rally for a student journalist assaulted over an editorial she wrote. B3

Fatal gunfire

A young man was shot and killed in a park on Shawmut Avenue in the South End yesterday. B11

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Bridgewater State students plan to rally for columnist

Gay-marriage editorial sparked assault, she says By Matt Rocheleau GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

Students at Bridgewater State University plan to hold a rally tomorrow in solidarity with a school newspaper columnist who told police she was punched in the face by someone who objected to an editorial she wrote supporting same-sex marriage. As of last night, about 300 Facebook users said they plan to attend a march and speaking program scheduled to last two hours, starting at 11 a.m. Last week, the school’s president, who is scheduled to speak at the event, said the school had zero tolerance for such incidents.

On Thursday, Destinie MoggBarkalow, 20, a junior and assistant editor for the paper’s opinion section, was walking on campus when a man and woman approached her. She was wearing a sweatshirt with the school newspaper’s name, the Comment. She said the man asked her if she worked for the Comment, if her name was Destinie, and if she had written a column published earlier that week on California’s controversial Proposition 8. The California law that banned same-sex marriage was ruled to be unconstitutional by an appeals court earlier this month. When Mogg-Barkalow confirmed she had written the piece, the woman allegedly punched the columnist’s right eye, and the couple walked away giggling.

‘Given that this investigation is ongoing . . . it’s premature to call it a hate crime.’ BRYAN BALDWIN Bridgewater State University spokesman

Police planned to release sketches of the man and woman by this morning, according to university spokesman Bryan Baldwin. Mogg-Barkalow, who is openly gay, said last week she does not believe her assailant was aware of her sexual orientation. School officials have said the university is not classifying the reported assault as a hate crime. ‘‘Given that this investigation is ongoing, and we don’t know all the facts, and no one has been apprehended, it’s premature to

call it a hate crime,’’ said Baldwin. ‘‘That label is applied by prosecutors.’’ Instead, he said the university characterizes the incident as ‘‘an attack on someone’s right to freely express themselves.’’ In an e-mail to the campus community Friday, Dana Mohler-Faria, the university’s president, said the school has ‘‘zero tolerance for any such actions that impede or curtail the right of the members of our campus community to express themselves freely.

‘‘We stand together, both in strongly condemning this action and in reaffirming our shared commitment to create a campus community that values and respects all.’’ The rally will be held at the school, where about two-thirds of its 7,900 full-time undergraduates live off campus, ‘‘to show that any form of hate is no longer accepted here or in society in general,’’ the event Web page said. ‘‘It’s good to see this rally happen,’’ said Dave Copeland, the student newspaper’s faculty adviser. ‘‘Being primarily a commuter campus, Bridgewater State does not always have the opportunity to come together that residential campus schools do.’’ Mary Polleys, editor of the newspaper, said Mogg-Barkalow

joined the Comment’s staff in September and will continue to write for the student publication. ‘‘I was really surprised this was organized so quickly, but also impressed,’’ Polleys said of the rally. ‘‘ There’s been a huge amount of support.’’ The sweatshirt Mogg-Barkalow was wearing when she reported being assaulted was part of a shipment Polleys ordered for her staff this year. At tomorrow’s event, Polleys said she and her staff will cover the rally and plan to support Mogg-Barkalow by wearing those sweatshirts proudly. ‘‘We’re not going to be intimidated by their actions,’’ Polleys said. Matt Rocheleau can be reached at

Erosion threatens a beloved stretch at tip of Cape Cod º BEACH

Continued from Page B1

adam parking lot and barrier wall, built decades ago and increasingly exposed to the surf and winds, leaves its future in doubt. ‘‘It’s not really sustainable for the long term,’’ Price said. ‘‘Certainly today you would never build a parking lot so close to the water. The long-term planning is going to have to abide by current perspectives.’’ Waves now regularly break onto the parking lot, Price said, undermining its integrity. At the north end, a semicircle section has collapsed, forcing the Seashore to close the area. Seashore officials, while aware the situation has become precarious, have been taken aback by the number and severity of the cave-ins, particularly during a mild winter. The biggest collapse, in front of a bathhouse built in the 1950s, has left a swath of the beach covered in chunks of broken asphalt. ‘‘To have spontaneous failures at four different areas, there’s no question we were surprised,’’ Price said. ‘‘We thought we’d have a couple more years, but it’s just a cumulative effect of erosion and old infrastructure.’’ For regular visitors to Herring Cove, who savor time there as an escape, news of the damage has been troubling. ‘‘I’m very worried,’’ said MaryJo Avellar, who serves on an advisory commission to the Seashore. ‘‘It’s part of our way of life.’’ In the summer, drivers arrive hours before sunset to secure a spot, Avellar said, and yearround residents visit throughout the winter, even if they don’t leave the car. Despite the recent damage, Avellar said she believes the parking lot can be saved, and said doing so should be a priority. Many people come to Herring Cove because of the easy access the parking lot provides. On the other end of the beach, she noted, a large parking lot is blocked by the dunes, and visitors must walk down a sandy path to reach the beach. Avellar said she will press the Seashore to reinforce the barrier to protect the parking lot, but worries the Seashore will ‘‘let nature take its course.’’ Herring Cove is perhaps the most popular beach on Cape Cod, said Candice Collins-Boden, who directs the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce. The beach is a major draw for tourists, and innkeepers make a point of recommending it to visitors, she said.


A man walked along a narrow stretch of Herring Cove Beach. ‘‘There’s virtually no beach left,’’ the superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore said. ‘‘People come from all over, and they come back year after year,’’ she said. Sarah Peake, a state representative from Provincetown, called the damage ‘‘heartbreaking,’’ and said she would challenge Seashore officials to preserve the beach as is. Removing the parking lot, she said, would be a ‘‘devastating loss that cannot be replaced.’’ ‘‘It gives everyone waterfront property,’’ she said. Others worry that fortifying the beach could come at a prohibitive cost. ‘‘It’s extremely expensive to move sand around,’’ Anderson said. Price said it is too early to know how much basic repairs will cost, and that crews would not begin work until April at the earliest. After the beach is stabilized, officials will begin to figure out how best to proceed, aware that the status quo cannot hold much longer. ‘‘There’s virtually no beach

left,’’ Price said. The Seashore has spent $10 million in Provincetown over the past five years, he said, and plans to build new bathhouses and a concession stand at Herring Cove. They will be built on risers, and set further back from the water. Since the road was built in the 1920s, sea levels have risen 10 inches, he said. ‘‘Every incremental inch provides that much more power and energy to reach the shoreline,’’ he said. At Herring Cove recently, visitors said they worry about the damage and hope things can stay the way they have been. But as the waves rushed across the narrow shore, washing over the fallen piles, that hope seemed faint. ‘‘Enjoy it while it lasts,’’ a young man said to his girlfriend, pointing at the breaking waves. Peter Schworm can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

With waves regularly breaking onto the parking lot, its integrity has been undermined. Four sections of the parking lot and a protective wall have given way since Christmas.

Childs’s GOP allegiance questioned in run for Frank’s open seat º CHILDS

Continued from Page B1, the fact that Childs is running as a Republican is hardly mentioned. It is not cited at all on the home page or in the ‘‘about’’ or ‘‘issues’’ sections, where there is hardly a whiff of partisan leaning. In March 2008, Childs opted for a Democratic presidential primary ballot to vote for Hillary Clinton, she said in an interview. At that point, Romney was on the GOP ballot, though he was days short of abandoning the race. Childs first registered as a Republican last July, just before sending out a letter declaring her intention to run as a Republican

for Frank’s seat. The three-decade House veteran did not announce his retirement until late November. To have a chance to take the seat, Childs must first win her party’s nomination against Sean Bielat, who lost to Frank in 2010. The Republican primary winner would probably face Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III in the November election. Bielat himself had Democratic roots, though not as recent or as deep. He first registered as a Republican in Massachusetts in 2007. He had been registered as a Democrat in New York before that, but had not voted there for several years. In an interview, Childs down-

played her party affiliation, as she does on her website. ‘‘I don’t think the party is as critical as the person,’’ Childs said. ‘‘I don’t think the party is what matters here.’’ What does matter, she said, is that she is fiscally conservative and socially moderate. And she sees herself as being a bridgebuilder in the US House between two parties for whom the middle ground has largely vanished. Last week, Frank expressed bemusement at the Republican mantle chosen by Childs, suggesting she donned it only to run against him — knowing that his Republican opponent would easily raise large sums of money, as Bielat did in 2010.

So far, Childs has embraced bipartisanship — and avoided taking detailed positions. She said she supports Romney for president. And despite her longtime preference for Democratic primary ballots, Childs said she voted for Senator John McCain over Barack Obama in November 2008. Before she moved to Massachusetts, Childs said, she was a Republican in her native Ohio, but abandoned the GOP in the 1980s because she disagreed with the party’s opposition to a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. So why rejoin the party now? Because, Childs said, she feels that other freedoms ‘‘were so

basic that if we didn’t get the fiscal house in order and deal with America’s future security and prosperity, it wasn’t going to matter.’’ Still, she acknowledged that she remains uncomfortable with the Republican Party’s platform ‘‘regulating moral decisions.’’ ‘‘It’s a compromise, I agree, because [the party] still hasn’t come around to where it should be in terms of women’s personal freedoms. I don’t think that the platform is right,’’ Childs said. Childs, an elected member of the nonpartisan Brookline School Committee since 2009, will relinquish her seat this spring to run for Congress. Alan Morse, a fellow School

Committee member, said he does not believe Childs’s Democratic Party voting history will be a detriment. By Morse’s reckoning, Childs has demonstrated the ability to find solutions to problems that satisfy all parties involved. ‘‘She has a clear talent that is needed in any public legislature,’’ Morse said. ‘‘In fact, we have a problem in Congress in arriving at constructive conclusions.’’ This article was reported by Tabeek and Finn for a seminar in Investigative Reporting at Northeastern University. It was edited by Journalism Professor Walter V. Robinson. He can be reached at

Elizabeth childs article inv rep  
Elizabeth childs article inv rep