BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: This week, a sad, disturbing and vital story from Isaiah Thompson on police shootings and the mentally ill. It centers on Harry Bennett, an Air Force vet killed by officers last summer, and while Thompson brings out facts from eyewitnesses that contradict police reports, he also takes a broader approach to address system-wide problems.
Bennett’s death came at the end of a particularly bad two years for altercations between the police and the mentally ill.
In January 2009, police shot Lawrence Kelly, 40, after finding him naked, in an agitated state. Police say Kelly attacked the officers and wielded a knife.
That March, police received a report of a suicidal man and found Juan Delgado, 42, atop a roof, where his brother was consoling him. When an officer approached, police say Delgado pulled a 9mm handgun, prompting the officer to fire.
In April, an officer encountered 28-year-old Anthony Temple, described as schizophrenic by his mother, who allegedly grabbed for an officer’s gun. The gun “went off,” according to police, hitting Temple, who fled, only to encounter another officer. Temple lunged for that officer’s weapon, as well, police said — and was shot dead.
In July 2009, two police officers fatally shot a mentally ill homeless man, later identified as Morgan Mumford, outside a SEPTA concourse when he allegedly brandished a box cutter.
This incident, more than the others before it, prompted Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey to meet with mental-health advocates and pledge to expand CIT training (he also bought 1,000 new Tasers for the department).
The reporting is first-rate, and the collision of mental illness and its associated stigma with a police culture of haste, violence and secrecy is a haunting idea. A must-read.
PW: The only Philadelphia medical experts I could name would be my next-door neighbor, who’s a geriatrician at Jefferson, and that vaccine guy from CHOP. Wellington Christian, though, appears to be among the city’s top medical minds, even if he’s just a maintenance guy at the Public Ledger Building and the Curtis Center, and it took a weird but well-reported story in PW to bring him into the public eye.
Christian leaves the building through a back door and walks into a side entrance of the stately Curtis Center. He wanders through the cavernous lobby past a giant Christmas tree and finds his way to a table outside the Cooperage Cafe, where one by one people stop by to say hi and share their stories. Almost immediately, the manager of the coffee shop, Corey Newman, spots him and comes out to sit for a minute. Five years ago, when Newman, then 28, was working security at the Curtis, he’d heard rumors of Christian’s talent. Newman’s girlfriend was suffering from a bad case of asthma, requiring a breathing mask to sleep, so he was ready to try anything to help her.
“I started asking around, is this guy legit?” Newman says. He questioned Christian and was impressed with his breadth of knowledge and willingness to draw a diagram or give an anatomy lesson on the fly. “Not one question I asked him, he didn’t know anything about,” he says.
So Newman bought an asthma tonic, describing it as “a wheat germ kind of thing.” “It worked great,” he says, adding that his girlfriend no longer has to use the breathing mask. What’s more, Christian made him a diabetes potion for his girlfriend’s father, which cut back his sugar considerably.
After Newman goes back to work, Christian takes a pen and sketches a rough diagram of a set of lungs to explain the theory behind his asthma medicine. He takes on a pedagogical air as he labels the alveoli, bronchioles and other parts.
“Primarily with asthmatics, you can’t get the air in cause you can’t get the air out,” he explains, as if teaching a class. “With asthmatics you see over-inflation of the bronchus. At the same time you see narrowing of the bronchioles.”
“One part is swollen up, the other part is closing down. So what you gotta do is go in there and reverse the polarities of this. Which is what I do.”
He contrasts asthma to emphysema. “What happens is in the case of emphysema, cigarette smoke provokes the enzyme in the alveoli so instead of dissolving what would hurt it, it starts tearing holes all throughout itself,” he says. “Now a person can’t effectively expel the air.”
How ’bout that? Anecdotes about the homeopathic roots of Hahneman Medical College and on alternative medicine from a Drexel prof help set the scene for Christian’s science, and the article closes by hinting at a treatment for AIDS. It all beggars belief, but it makes for a compelling story.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: A Gang of Four review with no mention of their former bassist. Railing against alleged transparency. African cuisine achieves world domination. Conservation station: Who will speak for the trees?
PW: Schoolly D, in peak, “dead-ass funny” form. Can Camden be saved? PAC attack: Police Advisory Council takes decisive action. Suds and duds in South Philly.
WINNER: CP’s cover is too wide-reaching and too well-researched to be denied. Chance is due with the city police and the DA’s office, and it’s nice to see someone in the media taking charge.