Monthly Archives: December 2011


The Year in Review, 2011 [VIDEO]

From Troy Davis to Occupy Wall Street, Oprah Winfrey to the National Book Awards, the jobs crisis to the fight for humane immigration policy–we look back at 2011’s biggest stories. Watch’s year in review.

In 2012, the Attack on Reproductive Rights  Will Focus on Women of Color

Akiba Solomon looks ahead at what will surely be a contentious year as women of color once again end up in the path of the right’s abortion war.

The Arc Is Bending Toward Justice. But That Doesn’t Make Our Work Easier

Quiet as it’s kept, we’re making real progress toward a just society. So Rinku Sen is keeping three imperatives in 2012: avoid triumphalism, put an explicit racial analysis front and center and fight like hell.

Our Economy Was Built on Lies. Until We Admit That, We’re Screwed We have organized society around a belief in unfettered growth and unrestrained capitalism. Kai Wright argues the question of 2012 is how we begin rebuilding based on something different.

Will Young Voters Steal the Show Again in 2012? Maybe, If Politicians Listen Operatives from both parties will be courting young voters in 2012. They’ll fail, Jamilah King argues, unless they understand what drives young people to political action in the first place.

How Immigrants Forced Media to Treat Them Like Human Beings in 2011 This year,’s Drop the I-Word campaign gained valuable allies in its fight to add humane language into the discourse on immigration. But there’s much more to come in 2012. Monica Novoa explains.

Five Signs You’re Acting Like a White Guy (Or, How Not to Be Gene Marks)You need not be white or a guy to act a fool in public, says stand-up comedian W. Kamau Bell. So here are some warning signals that you might be “getting all Gene Marksy up in here.”

Best of 2011’s Daily Love: Girls Who Love Themselves Enough to Talk Back to Lil Wayne We close each day on a positve note, with a daily dose of love. So to end the year, we’ve culled through the posts our Facebook fans loved the most in 2011.

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Here is the SPLC’s end-of-year Hatewatch Roundup.

As always, it is guaranteed to bring a smile to one’s face at the lunacy that hate brings out in people.

My favourite is #7: The pigfat-oil-on-the-bullets fiasco. I am still in stitches over that one.


The Last Word: Hatewatch’s 5th Annual Smackdown Awards

by Mark Potok  on December 20, 2011

Another year, another horror. As we close out another 12 months of mayhem, criminal violence and just plain stupidity on the radical right, it’s time, once again, to compile our annual year-end roster of winners of Hatewatch’s Smackdown Awards. And this year’s been a doozy — from neo-Nazis trying to hide their past to irrepressible birthers and on to all manner of other hypocrites of the extreme right. So, without further ado and with apologies to Keith Olbermann, here are the awards as picked out by Hatewatch’s 5th Annual Smackdown Awards Committee.

10. Least Successful Name Change Award

Neo-Nazis always seem to be telling us about how proud of their views they are, how no amount of “political correctness” would cause them to cringe or hide. They’ve got the truth on their side! Well, yes, except when the truth seems to be really, really uncomfortable. Hatewatch found once-famous Idaho neo-Nazi Vincent Bertollini hiding in plain sight in New Mexico this year, not long after he emerged from prison after serving almost four years on weapons charges. He was using the name Vince Bert, emitting occasional Internet howls for the “shedding of blood,” and trying to rid himself, as he told us, of “the burden of Bertollini.” But this year’s award goes to Kevin Alfred Strom, who also tried to adopt a new identity after serving federal time for possession of child pornography. We found Strom, the dapper former leader of the neo-Nazi National Vanguard, posting about the travails of “love” on Facebook as “Julian Dene,” and the poor man sure sounded lonely. The field’s open, ladies. And word has it that Strom, who says he works for the “Society for the Propagation of False Doctrine,” is just terrific with the kids!

9. We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Evidence Award

For a while, you could almost forgive the “birthers.” After all, here was this dude, this black guy, with his black wife and his black children, strolling around the White House like, well, like he belonged there! He must be Kenyan, a secret Muslim, a foreigner with “a deep-seated hatred for white people.” But then, in what The New York Times called “a profoundly low and debasing moment,” Obama released his “long form” birth certificate in a bid to muzzle the “carnival barkers” of the right. The birthers reacted predictably: Orly Taitz shouted that she had draft records to prove Obama is a fraud. Joseph Farah, the WorldNetDaily creep who was just about to publish Jerome Corsi’s unfortunately titled Where’s the Birth Certificate?, whined that the certificate was a forgery. Not Donald Trump, our hands-down winner for this year’s award. After bravely saddling up as a birther for his brief foray into the presidential race, the megalomaniacal Trump first congratulated himself at a press conference for having forced Obama’s hand. Then the man who says he gets along with “the blacks” just fine offered this up: Obama was a “terrible” student, one who couldn’t possibly have gotten into Columbia University and Harvard Law School, then edited the Harvard Law Review, graduating magna cum laude, all on his own — accomplishments Trump hasn’t come close to. Good thinking, Donald! Let’s investigate how this black man managed to actually make it on his own merits.

8. Unlikeliest LGBT Activist Award

Not many people are fond of the unpleasant congregants of Topeka’s gay-bashing Westboro Baptist Church, people who spend their days picketing the funerals of soldiers with signs like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Thank God for AIDS.” A range of Americans from conservative bikers to progressive activists have leveled withering criticism at the church led by Fred Phelps and helped organize their own pickets in order to screen funeral-goers from their Kansan tormenters. But this May, a counter-protest against the Phelps congregation, which is almost entirely made up of Phelps’ extended family, drew an unlikely human rights campaigner: Dennis LaBonte, imperial wizard of the tiny Powhatan, Va.-based Knights of the Southern Cross Soldiers of the Ku Klux Klan. LaBonte piously told reporters that it was soldiers who protected free speech in this country and, darn it, the Phelpses should quit hassling them. Retorted Abigail Phelps, in perhaps the only Phelpsian statement Hatewatch has ever agreed with: “They have no moral authority on anything.”

7. Dumbest Apparently Lucrative Scam Award

Last May, we came across a little outfit, apparently based in Courtland, Va., that calls itself Silver Bullet Gun Oil and sells a line of gun oils that supposedly contain 13% liquefied pig fat. The idea, coming a year after anti-Muslim hate crimes went up 50% in this country, was to allow U.S. soldiers abroad to kill Muslims and deny them a “place in paradise,” because, after all, consumption of pork is forbidden in Islam. The courageous proprietor of Silver Bullet refused to make his name public, but he went by Midnite Rider and claimed to have sold large amounts of his oil to soldiers and Marines deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Many, many of allah’s [sic] misfits, murderers and morons have been turned away from his gates of ‘Paradise’ due to their stench of swine,” he gloated. Online gun forums and right-wing websites of various descriptions also plugged the idea, reveling in the thought that Muslim “martyrs” would be denied their “72 virgins.” Just one problem: In Islam, if a believer unknowingly ingests pork, he is completely forgiven. Foiled again!

6. Most Disingenuous Anti-Racist Award

It’s true that David Duke, the neo-Nazi and former Klan chieftain, has a bit of a reputation. He’s famous for chasing skirts, and former allies have warned their friends to lock up their sisters, wives and daughters when the Dukester is in town. It’s also true that he’s known for ripping off his allies, taking donations to save the “Aryan” race and then spending them on gambling and home improvements. And it’s undeniable that he’s made statements like this one: “White people don’t need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals.” But don’t let any of that mislead you. Don’t listen to the Jews! In an “Open Letter to the World” written from a German jail where he was detained before being expelled earlier this month, Duke shrugged off his “controversial long ago past,” said “I represent the very opposite of racism,” and insisted that he opposed “any form of racial supremacism.” We thought his letter was a little glib, however, and suggested that Duke might want to redraft it, perhaps taking a few ideas from a letter written from a Birmingham, Ala., jail in 1963 by another famous activist. He was against racism, too.

5. Most Ingenuous Nazi-Turned-Anti-Racist Award

There was a time when Lynx and Lamb Gaede were the Lolitas of the neo-Nazi world, blonde songstresses who as barely pubescent teens had the dirty old men of the white power scene salivating. (When the girls were 14, David Lane, a terrorist who died in prison in 2007, told their mother: “When the girls were little, they were like daughters… . Now that they are grown women, and being a natural male… Well, you know what I’m trying to say.”) They were on national television wearing Hitler T-shirts and singing “Aryan” folk music as Prussian Blue, a band named after the color of Zyklon-B in the Nazi gas chambers. But now, at 19, they’ve put all that behind them, for real. They told a newspaper that in recent years, they’ve abandoned the racism of their mother, April Gaede, and instead come to “a place of love and light.” After years of serious health problems, they’ve also both become crusaders for medical marijuana. But their mom, a charming woman who was once captured in a documentary calling one of her girls a “cunt,” doesn’t believe her daughters’ turn away from racism. In a bizarre Facebook post, she claimed that the girls were just “using the Jewsmedia” to make money. Exactly how, she did not explain.

4. Most Loathsome Friend of Cop-Killers Award

It was bad enough that her common-law husband and his son murdered two police officers and wounded two more — and that the 2010 execution-style killings in West Memphis, Ark., were captured on some of the more horrible dashboard camera footage ever seen. But Donna Lee Wray didn’t merely avoid any expression of sorrow or regret for the lives that Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joseph ended. Instead, she started issuing angry threats, hurling epithets at reporters, accusing police of a cover-up, and trying to charge millions of dollars for the use of her “copyrighted” name (to the author of this post, among many others). She hotly denied that the Kanes were members of the “sovereign citizens” movement, whose adherents say that the government has no authority over them — and then used the special language employed by sovereigns in her rants. This April, she went one further, suing the West Memphis Police Department for the “torture killings” of her friends. But the court didn’t seem too sympathetic, issuing two preliminary orders saying she had failed to give a factual basis for her claim. “Her complaint,” a judge in Florida wrote, “is nothing more than a nonsensical recitation” of state and federal laws, Constitutional articles and amendments, and international treaties.

3. Most Reeking of Hypocrisy Award

When Bishop Eddie Long was accused in 2010 of using his position as pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch to coerce four teens into sex, his attorney told reporters that Long “adamantly denies” the allegations. After all, Long had turned New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into one of the nation’s more homophobic ministries — he once told his congregation, among other things, that “[t]he problem today … is because men are being feminized and women are being masculine” — and his accusers were all men. Last May, Long confidentially settled the lawsuits, which alleged Long victimized enrollees in his New Birth Ministry for boys from 13 to 18, for what one local newspaper described as a multimillion-dollar figure. Then, in December, Long’s wife of 21 years filed for divorce — only to have church officials claim the same day that she had withdrawn the petition and only filed it because of “years of attacks in the media.” Well, that didn’t last long. Within six hours, her lawyers said Vanessa Long was proceeding with the divorce. At around the same time, it was reported that Eddie Long’s first wife had also divorced him, alleging “cruel treatment” by the pastor, who had a “vicious and violent temper.”

2. Most Delicious Requited Request Award

Back in November, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the fellow who brags that he’s “America’s toughest sheriff” and clothes his jail inmates in pink underwear to prove it, was loudly whining that the media had imposed a “black out” on his “investigation” into the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Well, it wasn’t long before the publicity-hungry sheriff got the attention he was seeking. A week after making his complaint, The Associated Press published the results of a real investigation, this one showing Arpaio’s department had failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex crimes between 2005 and 2007. Many of the cases, including a large number of child molestations, involved undocumented immigrants — the same “illegal aliens” Arpaio has repeatedly belittled. Then, a little over a week later, the Department of Justice released the results of its own investigation, concluding that Arpaio’s department has a “pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos,” routinely flouts the Constitution and mistreats prisoners. And, by the way, Arpaio actually did get media attention for his Obama witch hunt — from The Globe, that pillar of supermarket checkout line journalism. In its “bombshell world exclusive,” the “news” organization reported that Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse was looking into the claim that Obama’s father was not who Obama says he was.

1. The Real Smackdown Award

There are smackdowns, and then there are smackdowns. A couple of our favorites — we probably really shouldn’t be admitting this! — are the cases of award winners Marlon L. Baker in Bayview, Idaho, and an unnamed woman in Bellingham, Wash. Baker is a black man who was minding his own business in a Bayview bar this July, when neo-Nazi skinhead Daren Christopher Abbey told him he’d better leave because of the color of his skin and poked Baker in the chest. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, Baker left the bar, only to be followed by Abbey, who kept taunting and harassing him. Finally, Abbey pushed Baker and Baker turned around and socked him once in the nose. The great Aryan warrior keeled over unconscious, waking up only to be immediately arrested and, ultimately, to plead guilty to a felony hate crime charge. In Bellingham five months later, another warrior of the radical right screamed epithets at two lesbians outside a bar, then smashed the rear window of their car. But that didn’t scare the women. One of them, in fact, grabbed William Adam Lane and held him until police arrived. And he wasn’t merely “detained,” said an amused police official. “He was thrown to the ground!”

And with that, dear readers, we bring this year’s parade of horribles (earlier years’ may be found here, here, here and here) to a close. Wishing our readers the best of the holiday season and a hate-free New Year, the committee bids you adieu until next December, when we’ll be back with the very worst of American hate.


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Quick Facts

The United Nations’ (UN) International Human Solidarity Day is celebrated on December 20 each year to raise public awareness on the importance of solidarity in fighting poverty.

Local names

Name Language
International Human Solidarity Day English
Día Internacional de la Solidaridad Humana Spanish

International Human Solidarity Day 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

International Human Solidarity Day 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The United Nations’ (UN) International Human Solidarity Day is annually held on December 20 to celebrate unity in diversity. It also aims to remind people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty.

International Human Solidarity Day reminds people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty. © ZIVANA

What do people do?

On International Human Solidarity Day, governments are reminded of their commitments to international agreements on the need for human solidarity as an initiative to fight against poverty. People are encouraged to debate on ways to promote solidarity and find innovative methods to help eradicate poverty.

Activities may include promoting campaigns on issues such as:

  • Banning land mines.
  • Making health and medication accessible to those in need.
  • Relief efforts to help those who suffered the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
  • Achieving universal education.
  • Fighting against poverty, corruption and terrorism.

The day is promoted through all forms of media including magazine articles, speeches at official events, and web blogs from groups, individuals or organizations committed to universal solidarity.

Public life

International Human Solidarity Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


Solidarity refers to a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group. In the Millennium Declaration world leaders agreed that solidarity was a value that was important to international relations in the 21st century. In light of globalization and growing inequality, the UN realized that strong international solidarity and cooperation was needed to achieve its Millennium Development Goals. The UN was founded on the idea unity and harmony via the concept of collective security that relies on its members’ solidarity to unite for international peace and security.

On December 22, 2005, the UN General Assembly proclaimed that International Solidarity Day would take place on December 20 each year. The event aimed to raise people’s awareness of the importance of advancing the international development agenda and promoting global understanding of the value of human solidarity. The assembly felt that the promotion of a culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important in combating poverty.


The UN emblem may be found in material promoting International Human Solidarity Day. The emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.

International Human Solidarity Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Wed Dec 20 2006 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 20 2007 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Sat Dec 20 2008 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 20 2009 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Mon Dec 20 2010 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Tue Dec 20 2011 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 20 2012 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Fri Dec 20 2013 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Sat Dec 20 2014 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 20 2015 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance

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Quick Facts

The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation is observed on December 19 each year.

Local names

Name Language
International Day for South-South Cooperation English
Día de las Naciones Unidas para la Cooperación Sur-Sur Spanish

International Day for South-South Cooperation 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

International Day for South-South Cooperation 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation is annually observed on December 19. It commemorates the date when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly endorsed a plan of action in 1978 to promote and implement technical cooperation among developing countries.
The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation celebrates economic, social and political developments in many developing countries. © beesley

What do people do?

The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation aims to raise people’s awareness of the UN’s efforts to work on technical cooperation among developing countries. It also celebrates the economic, social and political developments made in recent years by regions and countries in the south. It is a time for individuals and organizations to agree on the importance of South-South cooperation, in complementing North-South cooperation, to support low-income countries in achieving development goals.

On this day political leaders from different countries reaffirm their goals in working with UN leaders to reinforce or strengthen ties on their commitment to South-South cooperation in developing countries. This can be done through speeches, action plans, special seminars or conferences, or press announcements. Educators in the area of social or political sciences may highlight the day through classroom activities that bring forth an awareness of issues centered on the event.

Public life

The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation is not a public holiday so public life is not affected.


In 1978 the UN General Assembly established the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation on a global level. Two regional service centers, one in Asia and one in Africa, support South-South cooperation by pooling resources and by offering different types of services.

On December 23, 2003, the assembly declared December 19 the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation. This marks the date when the assembly endorsed the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries. The assembly urged all UN organizations and other institutions to enhance their efforts to mainstream the use of South-South cooperation in designing, formulating, and implementing their regular programs.

These organizations were also asked to consider increasing various resource allocations to support South-South cooperation initiatives. Recent initiatives have been tied with the Tsunami relief projects. In recent times a silent revolution has taken place among fast-track performers such as Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Thailand.


The UN emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.

International Day for South-South Cooperation Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Sun Dec 19 2004 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Mon Dec 19 2005 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Tue Dec 19 2006 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Wed Dec 19 2007 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Fri Dec 19 2008 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Sat Dec 19 2009 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Sun Dec 19 2010 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Mon Dec 19 2011 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Wed Dec 19 2012 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Thu Dec 19 2013 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Fri Dec 19 2014 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance
Sat Dec 19 2015 International Day for South-South Cooperation United Nations observance

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-18-2011


By and

Published: December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and dissident whose eloquent dissections of Communist rule helped to destroy it in revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall and swept Havel himself into power, died on Sunday. He was 75.

Lubomir Kotek-Gerard Fouet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Dec. 29, 1989, Vaclav Havel was elected Czechoslovakia’s president by the country’s still-communist parliament.                            More Photos »



Joel Robine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Havel, left, in 1988 at a rally in Prague.                            More Photos »

His assistant, Sabina Tancevova, said that Mr. Havel died at his country house in northern Bohemia.

A Czech embassy spokesman in Paris, Michal Dvorak, said in a statement that Mr. Havel, a heavy smoker for decades who almost died during surgery for lung cancer in 1996, had been suffering from severe respiratory ailments since last spring.

A shy yet resilient, unfailingly polite but dogged man who articulated the power of the powerless, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of Communist prisons, lived for two decades under close secret-police surveillance and endured the suppression of his plays and essays. He served 14 years as president, wrote 19 plays, inspired a film and a rap song and remained one of his generation’s most seductively nonconformist writers.

All the while, he came to personify the soul of the Czech nation. His moral authority and his moving use of the Czech language cast him as the dominant figure during Prague street demonstrations in 1989 and as the chief behind-the-scenes negotiator who brought about the end of more than 40 years of Communist rule and the peaceful transfer of power known as the Velvet Revolution, a revolt so smooth that it took just weeks to complete, without a single shot fired.

He was chosen as democratic Czechoslovakia’s first president — a role he insisted was more duty than aspiration — and after the country split in January 1993, he became president of the Czech Republic. He linked the country firmly to the west, clearing the way for the Czech Republic to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999 and the European Union five years later.

Both as a dissident and as a national leader, Mr. Havel impressed the West as one of the most important political thinkers in Central Europe. He rejected the notion, posited by reform-minded Communist leaders like Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, that Communist rule could be made more humane.

His star status and personal interests drew world leaders to Prague, from the Dalai Lama, with whom Mr. Havel meditated for hours, to President Bill Clinton, who, during a state visit in 1994, joined a saxophone jam session at Mr. Havel’s favorite jazz club.

Even after Mr. Havel retired in 2003, leaders sought him out, including President Obama. At their meeting in March 2009, Mr. Havel warned of the perils of limitless hope being projected onto a leader. Disappointment, he noted, could boil over into anger and resentment. Mr. Obama replied that he was becoming acutely aware of the possibility.

It was as a dissident that Mr. Havel most clearly championed the ideals of a civil society. He helped found Charter 77, the longest enduring human rights movement in the former Soviet bloc, and keenly articulated the lasting humiliations that Communism imposed on the individual.

In his now iconic 1978 essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” which circulated in underground editions in Czechoslovakia and was smuggled to other Warsaw Pact countries and to the West, Mr. Havel foresaw that the opposition could eventually prevail against the totalitarian state.

Mr. Havel, a child of bourgeois privilege whose family lost its wealth when the Communists came to power in 1948, first became active in the Writers Union in Czechoslovakia in the mid-1960s, when his chief target was not Communism so much as it was the “reform Communism” that many were seeking.

During the Prague Spring of 1968, the brief period when reform Communists, led byMr. Dubcek, believed that “Socialism with a human face” was possible, Mr. Havel argued that Communism could never be tamed.

He wrote an article, “On the Theme of an Opposition,” that advocated the end of single-party rule — a bold idea at the time. In May 1968, he was invited by the American theater producer Joseph Papp to see the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of his second play, “The Memorandum.”

It was the last time Mr. Havel was allowed out of the country under Communist rule; the visit contributed to an abiding affection for New York.

After the Soviets sent tanks to suppress the Prague reforms in August 1968, Mr. Havel persisted in the fight for political freedom. In August 1969 he organized a petition of 10 points that repudiated the politics of “normalization” with the Soviet Union. He was accused of subversion, and in 1970 was vilified on state television and banned as a writer.

Next page of this article continues as follows;

Alison Smale contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 18, 2011

An earlier version of this article, by the Associated Press, incorrectly identified the title of an essay by Vaclav Havel. It is “The Power of the Powerless,” not “The Power and the Powerless.”





Published: December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died on Thursday in Houston. He was 62.

Justin Lane for The New York Times

Christopher Hitchens in Washington, D.C., in 1999.

TimesCast | Christopher Hitchens

Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Christopher Hitchens a few hours after being released from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in October.

The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer, Vanity Fair magazine said in announcing the death, at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Mr. Hitchens, who lived in Washington, learned he had cancer while on a publicity tour in 2010 for his memoir, “Hitch-22,” and began writing and, on television, speaking about his illness frequently.

“In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist,” Mr. Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair, for which he was a contributing editor.

He took pains to emphasize that he had not revised his position on atheism, articulated in his best-selling 2007 book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” although he did express amused appreciation at the hope, among some concerned Christians, that he might undergo a late-life conversion.

He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”

Armed with a quick wit and a keen appetite for combat, Mr. Hitchens was in constant demand as a speaker on television, radio and the debating platform, where he held forth in a sonorous, plummily accented voice that seemed at odds with his disheveled appearance. He was a master of the extended peroration, peppered with literary allusions, and of the bright, off-the-cuff remark.

In 2007, when the interviewer Sean Hannity tried to make the case for an all-seeing God, Mr. Hitchens dismissed the idea with contempt. “It would be like living in North Korea,” he said.

Mr. Hitchens, a British Trotskyite who had lost faith in the Socialist movement, spent much of his life wandering the globe and reporting on the world’s trouble spots for The Nation magazine, the British newsmagazine The New Statesman and other publications.

His work took him to Northern Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Argentina in the 1970s, generally to shine a light on the evil practices of entrenched dictators or the imperial machinations of the great powers.

After moving to the United States in 1981, he added American politics to his beat, writing a biweekly Minority Report for The Nation. He wrote a monthly review-essay for The Atlantic and, as a carte-blanche columnist at Vanity Fair, filed essays on topics as various as getting a Brazilian bikini wax and the experience of being waterboarded, a volunteer assignment that he called “very much more frightening though less painful than the bikini wax.” He was also a columnist for the online magazine Slate.

His support for the Iraq war sprang from a growing conviction that radical elements in the Islamic world posed a mortal danger to Western principles of political liberty and freedom of conscience. The first stirrings of that view came in 1989 with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwah against the novelist Salman Rushdie for his supposedly blasphemous words in “The Satanic Verses.” To Mr. Hitchens, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, confirmed the threat.

In a political shift that shocked many of his friends and readers, he cut his ties to The Nation and became an outspoken advocate of the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a ferocious critic of what he called “Islamofascism.” Although he denied coining the word, he popularized it.

He remained unapologetic about the war. In 2006 he told the British newspaper The Guardian: “There are a lot of people who will not be happy, it seems to me, until I am compelled to write a letter to these comrades in Iraq and say: ‘Look, guys, it’s been real, but I’m going to have to drop you now. The political cost to me is just too high.’ Do I see myself doing this? No, I do not!”

Christopher Eric Hitchens was born on April 13, 1949, in Portsmouth, England. His father was a career officer in the Royal Navy and later earned a modest living as a bookkeeper.

Next page of this article continues as follows:

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 17, 2011

Because of an editing error, an obituary in some copies on Friday about the writer Christopher Hitchens referred incorrectly to the circumstances of his death. While he did die at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he had not entered hospice care there, and he had not stopped treatment. The obituary also misstated the source of a remark by Mr. Hitchens, an avowed atheist, about the possibility of a deathbed conversion. It came from a 2010 interview with The Atlantic, not with The New York Times. And the obituary also misstated the frequency of “Minority Report,” the column Mr. Hitchens wrote for The Nation. It appeared biweekly, not bimonthly.





Published: December 15, 2011

In 1973, a little boy named Mikey, a notoriously picky eater, dug enthusiastically into a bowl of a new, healthy cereal called Life. “He likes it!” his stunned older brother exclaimed in a memorable 30-second commercial that ran for over a decade.

Quaker Oats Company, via Associated Press

John Gilchrist as the finicky Mikey in the famed TV spot.

The spot was written by Edie Stevenson, a copywriter at Doyle Dane Bernbach and the divorced mother of four, including three boys much like Mikey and his brothers. Its success earned her a promotion to vice president.

Ms. Stevenson died on Tuesday in an assisted-living facility near her home in Westport, Mass. She was 81. The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her daughter, Karen, said.

Ms. Stevenson’s script was titled “Three Brothers.” The commercial, which was directed by Bob Gage, is perhaps best remembered for the line: “Let’s get Mikey. He won’t eat it. He hates everything.”

The advertisement won a Clio Award in 1974 and in 1999 was ranked No. 10 on TV Guide’s list of the top 50 commercials.

Different versions of the ad appeared in the 1990s, including one with an adult cast and a nationwide search for a new Mikey that settled on a young girl. Snapple made a digital composite of the original film of Mikey, played by John Gilchrist, trying a bottle of the beverage in 1996. This time, however, he didn’t like it.

Life cereal is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Edythe Vaughan Stevenson was born on Sept. 18, 1930, in Morristown, N.J., and grew up on Long Island. She graduated from Babylon High School in Suffolk County and in 1949 married Jack Mann, a sportswriter and editor.

They divorced in 1966, and Ms. Stevenson landed a job through a friend as a junior copywriter trainee at Doyle Dane Bernbach.

During her time there, she worked on campaigns for Volkswagen, Smirnoff vodka and Cutty Sark Scotch. She retired as senior vice president at Ephron, Raboy & Tsao in 1989.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her longtime partner, Gordon H. Price; two sisters, Daphne Stevenson Penttinen and Adelita Stevenson Moore; three sons, Steven, David and Donald Mann; and five grandchildren.

She also leaves a cat, Mikey.


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Comet Lovejoy rounds the Sun

NASA / LASCO Consortium

Bulletin at a Glance

News Observing This Week’s Sky at a Glance Community

Comet Lovejoy: A Solar Survivor

December 16, 2011                                                                | The odds were stacked against it, but a comet discovered just two weeks ago has passed just 116,000 miles from the Sun’s surface and — like a celestial phoenix — reemerged into view. Here’s the latest on what veteran observer John Bortle calls “one of the most extraordinary events in cometary history.” > read more

Black Hole Breakfast En Route

December 14, 2011                                                                | Astronomers have discovered a dusty, stretched-out cloud heading for the supermassive black hole lurking in the Milky Way’s core. The blob could be the meal the beast needs to wake up for a bit from its slumber, if the cloud survives its incoming trip on the dining cart. > read more

Sky & Telescope January 2012

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Comet Garradd in Transition

December 2, 2011                                                                | A decently bright visitor from the solar system’s fringe has lingered in the evening sky for months. As it nears perihelion, Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) will soon be seen better in northern morning skies before dawn. > read more

Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful

September 23, 2011                                                                | The “King of Planets,” which will dominate the evening sky from late 2011 through early 2012, is a captivating sight no matter how you look at it. > read more

Uranus and Neptune in 2011

May 31, 2011                                                                  | Uranus and Neptune are easy to find with the aid of the charts in this article. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Dawn view

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

December 16, 2011                                                                  | As fall finally turns to winter on the Longest Night this week, Venus and Jupiter light the evening sky and Orion shines through the many hours of darkness. > read more


S&T: Dennis di Cicco

AIC 2011 Videos

December 13, 2011                                                                | Videotaped interviews with vendors at the 2011 Advanced Imaging Conference are now available. > read more

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