Eating cake with your neighbors can make the world a better place

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. It’s the shortest and darkest day of the year.

Isabel (from left) Elizabeth and Sophie Szatkowski sing in Portland's Monument Square on Wednesday during a vigil in memory of people from the city's homeless community who died in the past year. The annual remembrance ceremony always takes place at the start of the longest night of the year. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Isabel (from left) Elizabeth and Sophie Szatkowski sing in Portland’s Monument Square on Wednesday during a vigil in memory of people from the city’s homeless community who died in the past year. The annual remembrance ceremony always takes place at the start of the longest night of the year. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

What we’re talking about

Eating cake with our neighbors can make the world a better place — After covering a story about Nadir Alzoubi and his family, Troy R. Bennett wrote about his policy of always accepting food while on assignments. 

I think if the politicians who talk about taking every measure possible to block refugees like the Alzoubis, or who smear them as dangerous Trojan horses, could nosh on some baklava, face-to-face in the kitchen of a Syrian, they would find those words harder to say.

Food, especially sweets, knows no language barrier. I don’t need a translator to tell someone that his or her cake or pie or cookies are delicious. Moans and tummy rubs do the trick.

Likewise, even though Jamila may have zero English skills, she says “hello friend” loud and clear when she rustles up tea and cake. It’s an especially moving gesture when you think for a minute about what she and her family endured to get here, with not much more than they could carry.

It’s an act of generosity that cannot be ignored. You must eat the cake. It’ll make the world a better place.

Ex-Idexx Lab worker who stole trade secrets among former Mainers pardoned by Obama — Bill Trotter has more on the Mainers who were pardoned by President Obama. One is Caryn L. Camp, who served three years of probation and paid restitution to Idexx for stealing trade secrets.

Caryn L. Camp, formerly of South Portland, was 37 years old and working for Idexx Laboratories in 1998 when she deliberately sent proprietary information about the company to a potential competitor. …

Camp, who lives in Taiwan, used email, the U.S. Postal Service and private shipping companies to send internal Idexx documents including procedures, laboratory information, customer lists, sales reports and other information to a man she had met on the Internet, The Associated Press reported in 1998. The scheme unraveled when Camp accidentally sent an email intended for the man to a co-worker.

Camp thought she was sending the information to a businessman and potential employer but later found out the recipient was a “dreamer” with a long beard and tie-dyed clothes who lived with his mother and drove a VW van, according to AP.

South Portland doctor convicted of tax evasion put on probation —- The Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine has put Dr. Joel Sabean on probation after his conviction last month for tax evasion and writing illegal prescriptions, the Press Herald’s Edward Murphy reports. The probation is reportedly a temporary measure to allow the dermatologist to transfer his patients to other doctors. Sabean will lose his medical license upon sentencing next year. 

What was your favorite record to come out of Maine this year?  — Emily Burnham has a few picks, including a bunch of Portland artists. Here’s a Spotify playlist of her favorites.

The only journalist to interview the North Pond Hermit is coming out with a book — Kathleen Pierce has the details on a new book about one of Maine’s most notorious characters. There’s going to be a book reading at Space in Portland on March 7.

Tweet of the day

From Science Cat.

Screenshot 2016-12-21 17.21.36

The Big Idea

‘They Left for a Better Life. It Got Tragically Worse.’ —  Nate Schweber and William Neuman of the New York Times wrote this heartbreaking story about Pete Ambrose and Danielle McGuire, the Houlton couple who moved to New York to start a new life. Their daughters were killed earlier this month when a broken radiator filled the room they were sleeping in with hot steam.

[O]n July 7, almost a year to the day after the couple first showed up at the homeless intake center, Ms. McGuire wrote online, “Looks like things are finally looking up,” adding the hashtags #lifeisgood and #onedayatatime. She had gotten a state license to work as a security guard, she wrote, and Mr. Ambrose had worked his first job as a house painter.

Everything would change on Dec. 7. It was a “freak accident,” according to Mayor Bill de Blasio: A valve had come off a radiator in the room where the girls slept, filling the room with intense heat and steam. It was not clear how long the steam had been pouring out, or whether the girls’ cries had gone undetected. A neighbor, hearing the parents’ screams, called 911 at 12:08 p.m.

Fifteen minutes later, the girls were declared dead.

It was a horrific story that focused attention on the bizarre cause, the tragic outcome and the somewhat unusual route the family took to establish a home in Hunts Point, where the city maintained a so-called cluster site: several apartments reserved for the homeless in a private building. Apartments like the one the Ambrose family stayed in are meant to be a temporary form of shelter, but the family stayed there more than 13 months.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.