Monthly Archives: December 2013



Steve Breen is the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized



Vladimir Vyatkin/Associated Press

Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov with a model of the AK-47 in 1997.


Published: December 23, 2013

  • Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the arms designer credited by the Soviet Union with creating the AK-47, the first in a series of rifles and machine guns that would indelibly associate his name with modern war and become the most abundant firearms ever made, died on Monday in Izhevsk, the capital of the Russian republic of Udmurtia, where he lived. He was 94.


Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The ubiquitous AK-47 in use in Libya in 2011.

Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president, confirmed the death, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Born a peasant on the southern Siberian steppe, General Kalashnikov had little formal education and claimed to be a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weapons to conceive of a rifle that achieved battlefield ubiquity.

His role in the rifle’s creation, and the attention showered on him by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, carried him from conscription in the Red Army to senior positions in the Soviet arms-manufacturing bureaucracy and ultimately to six terms on the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Union’s legislative body.

Tens of millions of Kalashnikov rifles have been manufactured. Their short barrels, steep front-sight posts and curved magazines made them a marker of conflict that has endured for decades. The weapons also became both Soviet and revolutionary symbols and widespread instruments of terrorism, child-soldiering and crime.

The general, who sometimes lamented the weapons’ unchecked distribution but took pride in having invented them and in their reputation for reliability, weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union to assume a public role as a folk hero and unequivocal Russian patriot.

A Soviet nostalgist, he also served as the unofficial arms ambassador of the revived Russian state. He used public appearances to try to cast the AK-47’s checkered legacy in a positive way and to complain that knockoffs were being manufactured illegally by former Soviet allies and cutting into Russian sales.

The weapon, he said, was designed to protect his motherland, not to be used by terrorists or thugs. “This is a weapon of defense,” he said. “It is not a weapon for offense.”

General Kalashnikov’s public life resulted from a secret competition to develop the Soviet infantry rifle for the Cold War. The result was the AK-47 — an abbreviation for “the automatic by Kalashnikov” followed by the year the competition ended.

General Kalashnikov, a senior sergeant at the time who had been injured in battle against German tanks, was credited with leading the design bureau that produced the AK-47 prototype. The Soviet Union began issuing a mass-produced version in 1949.

The true AK-47 was short-lived. It was followed in the 1950s by a modernized version, the A.K.M., which retained its predecessor’s underlying design while reducing its weight and manufacturing time.

Shorter than traditional infantry rifles and firing a cartridge midway between the power of a pistol and the standard rifle cartridges of the day, the Kalashnikov line was initially dismissed by American ordnance experts as a weapon of small consequence. It was not particularly accurate or well made, they said, and it lacked range and stopping power.

It cemented its place in martial history in the 1960s in Vietnam. There, a new American rifle, the M-16, experienced problems with corrosion and jamming in the jungles, while Kalashnikovs, carried by Vietcong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers, worked almost flawlessly.

By this time, in an effort to standardize infantry weapons among potential allies, the Soviet Union had exported the rifle’s specifications and its manufacturing technology to China, Egypt, North Korea and Warsaw Pact nations. Communist engineers would eventually share the manufacturing technology with other countries, including Iraq.

The design was incorporated into arms manufactured in Finland, Israel, South Africa and other nations. The result was a long line of derivatives and copies.

Because Kalashnikov rifles were principally made by secretive governments and often changed hands in nontransparent transfers, it is not known how many have been manufactured. Common estimates put production at 70 million to 100 million; either number would dwarf the production of any other gun.

The rifles eventually filled armories throughout Eastern Europe and Asia and spread from war to war, passing to Soviet allies and proxies, and to terrorists and criminals, aided by intelligence agencies and gray- and black-market sales. The United States became an active purchaser, arming anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s and indigenous Afghan and Iraqi forces in recent years.

Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The weapon being used in Syria.  General Kalashnikov was proud of the weapon but lamented its unchecked distribution

Pool photo by Natalia Kolesnikova, via Getty Images

Mikhail Kalashnikov in 2009.

General Kalashnikov’s bureau also used the A.K.M. design to develop machine guns for infantry squads, helicopter crews and vehicles. By the 1970s, the rifle’s design had become the basis for a new Soviet rifle, known as the AK-74, that fired a smaller and faster cartridge similar to that of the M-16. That rifle remains the standard weapon of the Russian Army.

The general often claimed that he never realized any profit from his work. But in his last years he urged interviewers not to portray him as poor, noting that he had a sizable apartment, a good car and a comfortable dacha on a lake near the factory where he had worked for decades.

Work and loyalty to country, he often suggested, were their own rewards. “I am told sometimes, ‘If you had lived in the West you would have been a multimillionaire long ago,’ ” he said. “There are other values.”

How essential the general was to creation of the Kalashnikov line has been subject to dispute. A post-Soviet account in the newspaper Pravda challenged his central role, asserting that two supervisors modified his weapon during field trials.

An amiable personality with a biography ideal for proletarian fable, he was given credit for their work, the newspaper claimed. The general disputed suggestions that the design was guided by others, but also said the rifle was the result of the collective that labored beside him.

The Kremlin embraced his version, although a careful reading of the official histories and General Kalashnikov’s many statements and memoirs shows that his accounts of his life, combat service and work repeatedly changed, raising questions about the veracity of the conventional accounts.

Mikhail Timofeyovich Kalashnikov was born in Kurya on Nov. 10, 1919. He was married twice, the second time to Ekaterina Kalashnikova, a technician in his design bureau. He is survived by a son from his first marriage, Viktor Kalashnikov, who is also an arms designer; a daughter from his second marriage, Elena Krasnovskaya; a stepdaughter, Nelya; and several grandchildren.

Later in life, he disapproved of anyone who he thought had hastened the Soviet Union’s downfall, or who had been unable to control the political and economic turbulence that followed. In memoirs and interviews, he was harshly critical of Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Boris N. Yeltsin.

To the end he was loyal to what he called Socialist ideals and the leaders who gave them shape, and seemed untroubled by the hardships endured by his family during the early years of Soviet rule. His family’s land and home had been seized during collectivization, and when he was a child the family was deported into the Siberian wilderness. His father died during their first Siberian winter, and one of his brothers labored for seven years as a prisoner digging the White Sea canal.

Still, General Kalashnikov spoke of his great respect for Lenin and Stalin alike. “I never knew him personally,” he said of Stalin, “and I regret this.”




Alan Nahigian

Yusef Lateef in April. He sought inspriation well beyond the Western Hemisphere and anticipated cross-cultural fusions.


Published: December 24, 2013

  • Yusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.

His death was announced on his website.

Mr. Lateef started out as a tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a bluesy style, not significantly more or less talented than numerous other saxophonists in the crowded jazz scene of the 1940s. He served a conventional jazz apprenticeship, working in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie and others. But by the time he made his first records as a leader, in 1957, he had begun establishing a reputation as a decidedly unconventional musician.

He began expanding his instrumental palette by doubling on flute, by no means a common jazz instrument in those years. He later added oboe, bassoon and non-Western wind instruments like the shehnai and arghul. “My attempts to experiment with new instruments grew out of the monotony of hearing the same old sounds played by the same old horns,” he once told DownBeat magazine. “When I looked into those other cultures, I found that good instruments existed there.”

Those experiments led to an embrace of new influences. At a time when jazz musicians in the United States rarely sought inspiration any farther geographically than Latin America, Mr. Lateef looked well beyond the Western Hemisphere. Anticipating the cross-cultural fusions of later decades, he flavored his music with scales, drones and percussion effects borrowed from Asia and the Middle East. He played world music before world music had a name.

In later years he incorporated elements of contemporary concert music and composed symphonic and chamber works. African influences became more noticeable in his music when he spent four years studying and teaching in Nigeria in the early 1980s.

Mr. Lateef professed to find the word “jazz” limiting and degrading; he preferred “autophysiopsychic music,” a term he invented. He further distanced himself from the jazz mainstream in 1980 when he declared that he would no longer perform any place where alcohol was served. “Too much blood, sweat and tears have been spilled creating this music to play it where people are smoking, drinking and talking,” he explained to The Boston Globe in 1999.

Still, with its emphasis on melodic improvisation and rhythmic immediacy, his music was always recognizably jazz at its core. And as far afield as his music might roam, his repertoire usually included at least a few Tin Pan Alley standards and, especially, plenty of blues.

He was born on Oct. 9, 1920, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Many sources give his birth name as William Evans, the name under which he performed and recorded before converting to Islam in the late 1940s (he belonged to the reformist Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) and changing his name to Yusef Abdul Lateef. But according to Mr. Lateef’s website, he was born William Emanuel Huddleston.

When he was 5 his family moved to Detroit, where he went on to study saxophone at Miller High School. After spending most of the 1940s on the road as a sideman with various big bands, he returned to Detroit in 1950 to care for his ailing wife and ended up staying for a decade.

While in Detroit he became a popular and respected fixture on the local nightclub scene and a mentor to younger musicians. He also resumed his studies, taking courses in flute and composition at Wayne State University and later studying oboe as well.

In the later part of the decade he began traveling regularly from Detroit to the East Coast with his working band to record for the Savoy and Prestige labels. By 1960 he had settled in New York, where he worked with Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley and the Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji before forming his own quartet in 1964.

He was soon a bona fide jazz star, with successful albums on the Impulse and Atlantic labels and a busy touring schedule. But he also remained a student, and he eventually became a teacher as well.

He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and taught both there and at Borough of Manhattan Community College in the 1970s. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1975 (his dissertation: “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education”) and later taught there and elsewhere in New England.

The more he studied, the more ambitious Mr. Lateef grew as a composer. He recorded his seven-movement “Symphonic Blues Suite” in 1970 and his “African-American Epic Suite,” a four-part work for quintet and orchestra, two decades later. His album “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he played all the instruments via overdubbing, won a Grammy Award in 1988, though not in any of the jazz or classical categories; it was named best New Age performance. Mr. Lateef said at the time that, while he was grateful for the award, he didn’t know what New Age music was.

In 2010 he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Lateef is survived by his wife, Ayesha; a son, Yusef; a granddaughter; and several great-grandchildren. His first wife, Tahira, died before him, as did a son and a daughter.

His creative output was not limited to music. He painted, wrote poetry and published several books of fiction. He also ran his own record company, YAL, which he established in 1992.

He remained musically active until a few months before his death. In April he appeared at Roulette in Brooklyn in a program titled “Yusef Lateef: Celebrating 75 Years of Music,” performing with the percussionist Adam Rudolph and presenting the premieres of two works, one for string quartet and the other for piano.





Published: December 29, 2013

Dr. Robert Neuwirth, a prominent gynecologist who developed minimally invasive techniques that helped many women avoid hysterectomies, died on Dec. 17 in Newark. He was 80.

RCL Photos

Dr. Robert Neuwirth

The cause was complications from a stroke, his son Michael said.

Dr. Neuwirth, who for much of his career was chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan as well as a professor at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, was both a physician and a tinkerer. He spent decades inventing, refining and revising his own techniques with the goal of finding simpler, more efficient ways to reduce painful and excessive menstrual bleeding.

One of the earliest methods he developed was to remove fibroids, the benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and can cause excessive bleeding.

In the past, surgeons who wanted to remove fibroids did so by removing the entire uterus. That procedure, called a hysterectomy, required a large abdominal incision and could carry increased risks of infection and complications. Women could not become pregnant after having a hysterectomy.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Neuwirth developed an alternative method that used a camera and tiny instruments, inserted through the vagina, to remove fibroids individually, leaving the uterus in place. The recovery period after the procedure, called an operative hysteroscopy, was much quicker, and many women were able to become pregnant afterward. By the 1980s, operative hysteroscopies were becoming common, and hundreds of thousands are now performed in the United States each year, many by doctors first taught by Dr. Neuwirth.

Dr. Neuwirth’s innovations often involved what is known as endometrial ablation, in which the tissue lining the uterus is deliberately reduced or destroyed to reduce heavy bleeding, called menorrhagia. Several years after popularizing hysteroscopy, he received a patent for a technique that involves inserting a balloon-like device into the uterus and filling it with hot water to essentially burn away part of the uterine wall. That procedure, which can be done in a doctor’s office, has also become commonplace.

In recent years, he was working on still another method, a chemical treatment that involves applying silver nitrate to parts of the uterine wall. One of his consistent goals was to create treatments that were relatively easy and inexpensive, in part so they could be used in countries with less sophisticated medical care.

“He didn’t want to make these complex,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, a longtime colleague who is director of the gynecology division at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. “He always wanted to keep it as simple as possible so that more people could do it.”

Robert Samuel Neuwirth was born on July 11, 1933, in Floral Park, N.Y., on Long Island.

He was the only child of Phyllis and Abraham, a physician. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Yale in 1955 and a medical degree from Yale in 1958; he completed his residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in 1962.

Twelve years later, he was named head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Luke’s and he stayed in that role until 1991, well after it had become St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. From 1977 to 2000 he was a professor at Columbia. He served as an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1982 to 1988.

“He was a brilliant physician-scientist, pushing forward new knowledge, but he was also a brilliant physician educator,” said Dr. Frank A. Chervenak, a former student who is chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and at Weill Cornell Medical College.

In addition to his son Michael, survivors include four other children, Susan Neuwirth-Guerra, Jessica, Laura, and Alexander; and six grandchildren. He was married twice; both marriages ended in divorce. He lived in Tampa, Fla., and had a home in Englewood, N.J.

Dr. Neuwirth often did follow-up studies to test the long-term consequences and safety of his techniques. He studied menstrual function in women who had hysteroscopic surgery, and he tested whether ablation techniques could mask cancer. He found that they did not.

Dr. Alan DeCherney, the program director for reproductive biology and medicine at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health, was among several people who emphasized that Dr. Neuwirth was a modest man who was not inclined to professional networking or self-promotion.

“He didn’t sell his ideas, he just did his stuff,” Dr. DeCherney said. “People saw it was good and they picked it up.”




RacingOne/ISC Archives, via Getty Images

Andy Granatelli kissing his driver Mario Andretti after Andretti, using a backup car, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969.


Published: December 29, 2013

  • Andy Granatelli, a colorful entrepreneur who turned STP oil treatment into a national institution and built racecars that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and in 1973, died on Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 90.

Bob D’Olivo/Source Interlink Media, via Getty Images

Andy Granatelli, left, with the driver Parnelli Jones in 1967.

Mr. Granatelli appeared in commercials for STP oil treatment, and the company’s decals were everywhere.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his son Vince told The Associated Press.

In 1961, the Studebaker Packard Corporation acquired Chemical Compounds, a company with seven employees and only one product: STP (for scientifically treated petroleum). Mr. Granatelli was named the president and changed the company name to STP.

Within a decade, the company had 2,000 employees and was selling more than 100 million cans a year, and its annual sales of $2 million had grown to $100 million. STP decals, with the slogan “The Racer’s Edge,” were everywhere, both at racetracks and on the bumpers of family station wagons. Mr. Granatelli appeared in commercials for the product.

But in 1971, an article in Consumer Reports said STP oil treatment was actually “thick goo,” a worthless oil thickener. Mr. Granatelli denied that, but stock trading halted, and in two days, the stock, which had been at $58, fell to $38.

In 1974, STP was sold to Esmark Corporation for $135 million.

Mr. Granatelli was also involved in auto racing, and his innovations shook up the sport’s establishment. From 1961 to 1965, he entered cars in the Indianapolis 500, at that time America’s most celebrated race, with supercharged V-8 engines. Their horsepower reached 837, up from the conventional 450.

In 1967, he built and sponsored a radical new car with a turbine engine and 80 percent fewer parts than a conventional, piston-driven engine. Al Dean, a rival owner, said, “If they’re going to race airplanes, then let’s all race airplanes.”

Mr. Granatelli entered a turbine car in the Indianapolis 500 that year with Parnelli Jones driving. It led for 171 of the 200 laps and was leading by almost one lap with three laps left when a $6 transmission ball bearing broke. The car slowed to a stop.

The next year, the United States Auto Club, which made the race rules, ordered turbine power reduced by a third. Still, a Granatelli car with Joe Leonard driving was leading with eight laps to go when a tiny gear broke in the fuel-pump shaft. The crowd, which seemed to prefer the traditional cars, cheered. Then came more restrictions, and Mr. Granatelli gave up on the turbine car.

In his 1969 autobiography, “They Call Me Mr. 500,” he said: “We were rather badly handled in the turbine affair. Perhaps we tried to hurry tomorrow to a group of tradition-bound people who were frightened silly at the prospect of a new dawn.”

In 1969, Mario Andretti crashed Mr. Granatelli’s new four-wheel-drive Lotus in an Indianapolis 500 practice. Andretti drove a year-old backup car with a conventional engine in the race and won. In 1973, Mr. Granatelli won the race again with a car driven by Gordon Johncock.

Mr. Granatelli last entered a car at Indianapolis in 1974. He also sponsored Richard Petty in Nascar races, and from 1972 to 1981, Petty won four series championships and four Daytona 500s.

Anthony Granatelli was born March 18, 1923, in Dallas and grew up in the Chicago slums. He dropped out of school at 14 and worked in a grocery for $6 a week.

He and his two brothers — Vince and Joe — became auto mechanics who turned normal car engines into racing engines. When he was 20, he and his brothers bought a gas station in Chicago and became an instant success because four or five mechanics would work on a car at once. Soon, he started marketing auto parts.

After World War II, he promoted auto stunt shows featuring drivers who did rollover and end-over-end crashes and survived, a sort of Harlem Globetrotters performance with spark plugs.

In 1946, the three brothers drove an 11-year-old racecar from Chicago to Indianapolis. They slept in a garage because they could not afford hotel rooms. With Danny Kladis as their driver, they entered a car in the 500, which qualified in the back of the field, ran out of fuel and finished 21st.

By 1947, Mr. Granatelli was promoting stock-car and hot-rod races in the Midwest. In 1948, he tried to become an Indianapolis driver, using a helmet borrowed from his friend Bill France Sr., the founder of Nascar. He crashed in his qualifying run.

Mr. Granatelli’s first major business operation was Paxton Products, which made superchargers and was losing money. He bought the company in 1958, and in seven months, it was making a profit. In 1961, he sold the company to Studebaker and became a Studebaker vice president, chief engineer and driver.

His production cars set more than 400 world land-speed and endurance records. At 62, in a passenger car legal for street driving, he drove 241.731 miles per hour over the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Studebaker controlled 55 percent of STP’s stock, and in 1973, it terminated his STP contract because of differences with the board of directors. In 1976, Mr. Granatelli bought Tuneup Masters, an auto-parts distributor, for $300,000. In 1986, he sold it for $60 million.

He was elected to at least 24 automotive, racing and business halls of fame, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. Besides his son Vince, survivors include his wife, Dolly, and another son, Anthony.

In 1969, Mr. Granatelli said of himself: “People say he’s flamboyant, he’s this, he’s that. That’s just me. I can’t help who I am. I was born supercharged.”





Published: December 30, 2013

  • Dr. Kenneth C. Edelin, a Boston physician whose 1975 manslaughter conviction for performing a legal abortion was overturned on appeal in a landmark test of medical, legal, religious and political questions surrounding abortion in America, died on Monday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74.

United Press International

Dr. Kenneth C. Edelin, left, with his lawyer in 1975, after Dr. Edelin’s sentencing. An all-white jury had convicted him of manslaughter.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Two years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, Dr. Edelin, a 35-year-old resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital, became the focus of a roiling national debate over crucial issues that had been left unresolved by the justices: When does life begin? Does an aborted fetus have rights? And what are a doctor’s often contradictory duties to the fetus and its mother?

Dr. Edelin (pronounced EE-da-lin) was charged with causing the death of the fetus of an unwed 17-year-old during an elective abortion in her sixth month of pregnancy. In a six-week trial in Boston that explored uncharted legal ground and made headlines across the country, Dr. Edelin, who was black, was vilified as a baby-killer and defended as a victim of racial and religious prejudice being tried for an action that had never been defined as a crime: killing a fetus that may or may not have been a “person,” and whose rights had never been specified by law.

The abortion, which took place in 1973, began as a routine procedure: the injection of a saline solution that usually causes uterine contractions and the expulsion of the fetus. But several tries were unsuccessful, and Dr. Edelin completed the abortion by a surgical procedure known as a hysterotomy — making a small incision in the uterus, like a cesarean section, and detaching the fetus from the placental wall by hand.

Prosecutors did not contest the legality of the abortion — Roe v. Wade had struck down anti-abortion laws in most states, including Massachusetts — but argued that Dr. Edelin, after ending the pregnancy, had deprived “a baby boy” of life-sustaining oxygen while it was still in the womb “being born.” A photo of the dead fetus preserved in formaldehyde was shown to the jurors, and some said they were “shaken” by it.

The defense called the photo inflammatory and objected repeatedly to the prosecution’s use of “fetus” and “baby” as interchangeable terms in a case it said was being politicized. Medical experts testified for the defense that the fetus, estimated to be 24 weeks old, was not viable enough to have survived outside the womb. Dr. Edelin’s lawyers contended that no “person” had even existed, let alone died.

But the all-white 12-member jury, which included nine men and 10 Roman Catholics, convicted Dr. Edelin of manslaughter. Some jurors said later that the photo of the dead fetus, whose face, they said, looked distorted as if in pain, had been decisive in their decision to vote guilty. An alternate juror also said after the verdict that jurors had made racial slurs against Dr. Edelin “more than once” before closing arguments.

The presiding judge, who had instructed the jury that it could convict only if it believed that the fetus was a viable person and that the doctor had acted recklessly, sentenced Dr. Edelin to one year of probation, although he could have imposed a maximum of 20 years in prison. Dr. Edelin kept his medical license and continued to practice at Boston City Hospital.

The verdict was hailed as a victory by anti-abortion groups and the Catholic hierarchy, which had long contended that life was sacred and began at conception. But it shocked and dismayed advocates of women’s rights, who called the case a precedent that could make doctors wary of performing abortions in the second trimester.

Dr. Edelin called the prosecution a “witch hunt” in a city where a huge Catholic population believed that fetuses were human beings with the rights of citizens, and that abortions were sacrilegious. The chief prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Newman A. Flanagan, was himself a Catholic who hoped to run for Suffolk County district attorney, and was widely admired for pursuing a case that might tighten restrictions and intimidate doctors who performed abortions.

Dr. Edelin appealed the verdict, and in 1976 the state’s highest judicial body, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, unanimously overturned the conviction and formally acquitted him.The appellate court held that a doctor could commit manslaughter only by ending the life of a fetus that was definitely alive outside the woman’s body. It rejected the prosecution theory that the fetus might have been alive in the uterus after being separated from the uterine wall, and was thus a “person” for purposes of the manslaughter law.

The ruling also clarified the definition of “life,” saying that it meant having heartbeats and respiration — more than “several transient cardiac transactions” and more than “fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.” Besides giving doctors protection by defining when a fetus is a live person, the ruling also protected them from criminal liability for failing to take “heroic measures” to save a fetus once it was outside a woman’s body.

Propelled to fame by the case, Dr. Edelin became a hero of the women’s movement, was named to prestigious posts in national health and human rights organizations, and went on to a successful medical and teaching career. He became known for his concern for indigent patients, and spoke often of the need for legal and safe abortions as a necessary alternative to the dangerous back-alley practices of the past.

“Nobody likes to do abortions,” Dr. Edelin told The New York Times in 1975, “but the least we can do is make it safe and humane.”

Kenneth Carlton Edelin was born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1939, one of four children of Benedict Edelin, a postal worker, and the former Ruby Goodwin. Kenneth attended racially segregated Washington elementary schools and graduated from the Stockbridge School in western Massachusetts in 1957.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 1961, he taught math and science for two years at the Stockbridge School and then attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, where he earned his medical degree in 1967.

In 1967, he married Ramona Hoage. They had two children, Kenneth Jr. and Kimberley, and later divorced. In 1978, he married Barbara Evans. They had two children, Joseph and Corrine. Besides his wife and four children, Dr. Edelin is survived by eight grandchildren; a brother, Milton; and a sister, Norma Edelin Johnson. Another brother, Robert, died in 1982.

Dr. Edelin was the uncle of Jeh C. Johnson, the current United States secretary of homeland security.

Dr. Edelin was in the Air Force from 1968 to 1971, rising to captain and serving a hospital internship at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. After his discharge, he held a medical residency at Boston City Hospital from 1971 to 1974. He became the hospital’s first black chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology in 1973, and that October — nine months after Roe v. Wade — performed the abortion that led to his arrest.

After his acquittal, Dr. Edelin became a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University and was chairman of the department for a decade until 1989. For years he was also director of ob-gyn at Boston City Hospital and managing director of the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, the largest provider of primary health services for Boston’s African-American community.

He was chairman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1989 to 1992, and a director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and of the Guttmacher Institute, which promotes reproductive health. His case was the subject of a 1978 book, “The Baby in the Bottle,” by William A. Nolen, and a play, “As to the Meaning of Words,” by Mark Eichman, that was staged in New York in 1981.

Dr. Edelin, who lived in Sarasota and in Oak Bluffs, Mass., discontinued his medical practice some years ago and retired from teaching in 2006. He was the author of many articles on the prevention of teenage pregnancy and the perils of substance abuse during pregnancy. In 2007 he published a memoir, “Broken Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston Courtroom.”




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized




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
היום הבינלאומי לסולידריות אנושית Hebrew
اليوم العالمي للتضامن الإنساني Arabic
국제 인간 연대의 날 Korean
Internationaler Tag der menschlichen Solidarität German

International Human Solidarity Day 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

International Human Solidarity Day 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

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.

Paper doll people in shades of blue link hands while standing on top of the worldInternational Human Solidarity Day reminds people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty.

© Weibell

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
Tue Dec 20 2016 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Wed Dec 20 2017 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 20 2018 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Fri Dec 20 2019 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 20 2020 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized



The choreographer Fred Benjamin in an undated photo.


Published: December 19, 2013

Fred Benjamin, an internationally known teacher of jazz dance who was also part of the creative wave of young black modern-dance choreographers who came to prominence in the 1970s, died on Dec. 14 in Manhattan. He was 69.

The cause was organ failure, said Geneva Vivino, a family friend and a former dancer in the Fred Benjamin Dance Company. Mr. Benjamin recovered from a stroke he had in 2003 and continued teaching both in the United States and abroad. He was chairman of the jazz department and a faculty adviser at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in the 1990s. Ms. Vivino said he taught up to a month ago at the Steps on Broadway studios, where he was a beloved if strict teacher for many years.

As a choreographer for his own troupe and other companies, Mr. Benjamin specialized in the form of modern dance known as jazz dance. But unlike most others in the genre, he integrated ballet technique into a highly propulsive style.

At the same time, he was often concerned with the black heritage, an influence he derived from the modern-dance pioneer Talley Beatty, in whose company he danced from 1963 to 1966.

In 1976, Mr. Benjamin choreographed “Travels Just Outside the House,” based on his own experience in an emergency room after he was stabbed six times by thieves in his apartment building. He told The New York Times that the dance was inspired by the sensation of “being given sedatives as I was being put to sleep.”

Frederick Charles Benjamin was born in Boston on Sept. 8, 1944, and began studying dance there at age 4 at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in the Roxbury neighborhood. When the MacArthur Foundation initiated its so-called genius grants, Ms. Lewis was among the first recipients, singled out as one of the foremost dance educators in a black community. When Mr. Benjamin moved to New York in 1962, she financed his ballet lessons.

She also introduced him to Mr. Beatty, who became another important mentor and to whom he paid tribute in his choreography. After leaving the Talley Beatty Dance Company, Mr. Benjamin performed with the June Taylor Dancers and on Broadway in “Hello, Dolly!” and “Promises, Promises.” He formed the Fred Benjamin Dance Company in 1968.

Throughout his career, Mr. Benjamin remained associated with black dance programs. His company was a mainstay of the Harlem Cultural Council’s Dancemobile: the dancers performed on flatbed trucks in various neighborhoods.

Like many young black choreographers emerging in the 1960s and 1970s, he found a nurturing environment at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. Although open to all, its classes and performances at the West Side Y.W.C.A. were organized by Mr. Ailey and others in 1959 to foster opportunities for black dancers and choreographers. Mr. Benjamin remained associated with the center as a teacher and performer until it closed in the 1980s.

He is survived by a sister, Ruth Benjamin, and a brother, Kenneth Benjamin Jr.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 21, 2013

An earlier version of a picture caption with this obituary contained an unconfirmed date. The photo is undated; it is not necessarily from 1976.





Published: December 16, 2013

  • Ray Price, who was at the forefront of two revolutions in country music as one of its finest ballad singers and biggest hit makers, died on Monday at his home in Mount Pleasant, Tex. He was 87.

Tom Colburn/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Ray Price performing in Huntsville, Tex., in 1968.

J.P. Roth Collection

His death was announced by the veteran country disc jockey Bill Mack, a spokesman for Mr. Price’s family. Mr. Price had pancreatic cancer and had until recently been in hospice care.

Over a career that began in the 1940s, Mr. Price placed more than 100 singles on the country charts, including Top 10 hits like “City Lights,” “Heartaches by the Number” and “Make the World Go Away.” He hired future country stars to play in his band, notably Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Paycheck. And Pamper Music, the publishing company that he owned with two partners, helped start the careers of hit songwriters like Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Mr. Nelson.

He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mr. Price first helped change country music in the mid-1950s, when, hoping to distinguish his sound from that of his former roommate Hank Williams, he and his band transformed the gutbucket country shuffle of the postwar era into sleek, propulsive honky-tonk.

“We were having trouble getting a good, clean bass sound,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post in 1998, talking about the session that produced his breakthrough hit, “Crazy Arms,” a No. 1 country record for 20 weeks in 1956. “So instead of going with the standard 2/4 beat, I said, ‘Let’s try a 4/4 bass and a shuffle rhythm,’ and it cut. It cut clean through.”

Now a part of the American musical vernacular, the “Ray Price beat,” as it came to be known, not only achieved its desired sonic effect, but it also reclaimed the country charts for country music. “Crazy Arms” knocked Carl Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes” from the top spot at a time when teenage-friendly rockabilly acts like Perkins and Elvis Presley were crowding out more traditional singers like Hank Thompson and Hank Snow.

In the middle to late 1960s Mr. Price refined his music further by singing in a lower register and combining lush string orchestration with soul-inflected rhythms, in the process helping to give birth to the so-called countrypolitan sound. His recording of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,” a No. 1 country hit that stalled just outside the pop Top 10 in 1970, epitomized the affecting new hybrid. It also won a Grammy Award for best male country vocal performance.

The constant amid these transformations was Mr. Price’s voice, a pliant baritone capable of conveying great depth of feeling much like that of Tony Bennett, a musical hero of his.

“My voice is my instrument,” he told The Post. “I’ve worked all my life to make sure I enunciate properly. I try to make the melody true — I can’t stand an off note.”

Noble Ray Price was born on Jan. 12, 1926, on a farm near Perryville, Tex., in the eastern part of the state. Raised in Dallas by his mother after his parents divorced, he spent summers on his father’s farm. The mix of rural and urban sensibilities he grew up with would later manifest itself in his music.

After serving in the Marines from 1944 to 1946, Mr. Price enrolled in North Texas Agricultural College to study veterinary medicine. He also began singing in nightclubs and was discovered by the producer Jim Beck, who secured him a contract with the Nashville label Bullet Records.

Mr. Price began singing on “The Big D Jamboree,” a radio barn dance in Dallas, toward the end of 1949. He signed with Columbia Records in 1951, after which he moved to Nashville at the urging of Hank Williams and joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Mr. Price’s initial recordings for Columbia revealed him to be a skilled Williams protégé, but despite the enormous popularity of his mentor, Mr. Price failed to gain an audience on country radio. Even the name of his band, the Cherokee Cowboys, was derived from that of Williams’s group, the Drifting Cowboys. Mr. Price did not become a star in his own right, or distinguish himself as a musical stylist, until the surging fiddle and 4/4 bass line of “Crazy Arms” erupted onto the country airwaves in May 1956.

Though no longer a force on the country charts by the mid-’80s, Mr. Price, who for decades maintained a working ranch in Texas, continued to tour and record. In 2007 he released the album “Last of the Breed,” a collaboration with Mr. Nelson and Merle Haggard, which won a Grammy for best country collaboration with vocals.

He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Janie, and by a son, Cliff, from a previous marriage.

Although some of his fans had trouble reconciling his shift from rough-cut honky-tonker to countrypolitan crooner, the move never posed any sort of conflict for Mr. Price.

Quoted in the roots music magazine No Depression, he said: “There’s no difference between singing a country song in a Western suit and then going around behind the curtain and walking out the other side with a tux on and singing the same country song with a pop arrangement. It’s the same thing.”





Published: December 18, 2013

  • George Rodrigue, whose career as an artist started with dark and lush landscapes of his native Louisiana bayou but shifted abruptly, and profitably, when he began a series of portraits of a single subject, a melancholy mutt that came to be known as Blue Dog, died on Saturday in Houston. He was 69.

Claudia B. Laws/The Daily Advertiser, via Associated Press

George Rodrigue in 2005 with one of his Blue Dog paintings, “We Will Rise Again.”

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Mr. Rodrigue, who grew up in New Iberia, in southern Louisiana, set out to document and celebrate Cajun culture with works like “The Aioli Dinner” (1971), which depicts traditional gatherings on the lawns of plantations. He won recognition in France and Italy. He painted portraits of famous people, including the celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, who helped introduce Cajun food and culture to the world in the 1970s, as well as Walker Percy, Huey Long, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Among his many commissions was a request in 1984 that he do the artwork for a collection of Cajun ghost stories, including a painting of a ghost dog, or werewolf, known in his part of the world as the loup-garou.

Mr. Rodrigue (pronounced rod-REEG) found his model in his studio: a photograph of his dog, Tiffany, who had died. She was black and white in reality but became blue in his imagination, with yellow eyes. She was also a she, but she could become a he — or, for that matter, whatever else a viewer was prepared to see.

“The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog,” Mr. Rodrigue told The New York Times in 1998. “He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with the eyes, always saying something different.”

He added: “People who have seen a Blue Dog painting always remember it. They are really about life, about mankind searching for answers. The dog never changes position. He just stares at you. And you’re looking at him, looking for some answers, ‘Why are we here?,’ and he’s just looking back at you, wondering the same. The dog doesn’t know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers.”

By the early 1990s, Mr. Rodrigue was painting only Blue Dog.

“I dropped all the Cajun influence,” he said in an interview with the New Orleans public television station WLAE.

Mr. Rodrigue was born in New Iberia on March 13, 1944, the only child of George and Marie Rodrigue. His father was a bricklayer. He began learning to draw and paint after he was found to have polio at age 8 and spent several months in bed. He studied art at the University of Southwest Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in the mid-1960s and attended the Art Center College of Design (then in Los Angeles; now in Pasadena) from 1965 to 1967.

He returned to Louisiana in 1968. In 1976, he published his first book, “The Cajuns of George Rodrigue.”

Survivors include his wife, Wendy, and two sons, Jacques and Andre.

Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, and a former governor, Kathleen Blanco, as well as the musician Irvin Mayfield, were among those scheduled to speak at a memorial service for him on Thursday at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Mr. Rodrigue boasted that it was not uncommon for his Blue Dog paintings to sell for $25,000. Some were rumored to have sold for 10 times that.

He painted Blue Dogs with presidents, with naked women in faux French scenes, on the lawn with his Aioli dining club party, inside a soup can, in ads for Absolut Vodka and next to Marilyn Monroe (return jabs, perhaps, at those who dismissed him as a Pop Art opportunist). Critics were not always impressed, but he said he did not care.

In later years Mr. Rodrigue painted other subjects, but he did not abandon Blue Dog. He said he painted in part for the people who walked past his studio on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

“You have to do something that really attracts the attention,” he said in the WLAE interview. “I didn’t start out doing that, but that’s to fight for that audience. It’s great. It’s really great, because it’s a cross-section of the whole country here that walks down Royal Street, and the world.”





Published: December 22, 2013

  • Edgar M. Bronfman, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist who as chairman of the Seagram Company expanded his family’s liquor-based empire and who as president of the World Jewish Congress championed the rights of Jews everywhere, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 84.

William E. Sauro/The New York Times

Edgar M. Bronfman in the Seagram Building in 1985.

William E. Sauro/The New York Times

Mr. Bronfman with his sons Edgar Jr., left, and Samuel, both top executives, in the Seagram Building in 1985.

His death, of natural causes, was confirmed by the family’s Samuel Bronfman Foundation.

Mr. Bronfman inherited control of Seagram from his father, Samuel Bronfman, an irascible, self-made Canadian magnate who founded a distilling company in 1924 and got rich during Prohibition when Bronfman liquor found its way to American customers through bootleggers.

Edgar gave the company a more sophisticated image, in keeping with his own elegantly turned-out profile in New York society — a prominence underscored in the 1970s by the headlines generated by the kidnapping of his son Sam for ransom money.

But as liquor profits began to falter, he broadened the company by acquiring Tropicana, taking Seagram into the oil business and eventually making it the largest minority shareholder in DuPont, the chemical giant. Later, he allowed his son Edgar Jr., who had succeeded him as head of the company, to risk billions of dollars to transform Seagram once again, this time into a major player in Hollywood.

As president of the World Jewish Congress, from 1981 until 2007, Mr. Bronfman turned a loose, cautious federation of Jewish groups in 66 countries into a more focused, confrontational organization.

Under his leadership, the Congress pressed the Soviet Union to improve conditions for Jews living within its borders and to allow freer emigration. Spurred by Mr. Bronfman, the Congress led efforts to expose the hidden Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, the former secretary general of the United Nations who became president of Austria. And it campaigned successfully to force Swiss banks to make restitutions of more than a billion dollars to the relatives of German death camp victims who deposited their savings in Switzerland before World War II.

Mr. Bronfman shrugged off criticism from those who feared that his aggressive tactics were risking an anti-Semitic backlash. “The answer isn’t to say, ‘Don’t make trouble,’ and hide our heads in the sand,” he wrote in his 1998 memoir, “Good Spirits: The Making of a Businessman.” “We may not earn the friendship of others, but we will demand their respect.”

Edgar Miles Bronfman was born in Montreal on June 20, 1929. His father and his mother, the former Saidye Rosner, were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who had moved to Montreal from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Edgar was the third-born of their four children.

Sam Bronfman and his brother Allan established a successful mail-order liquor company but were forced to give it up when provincial governments in Canada took over the retail side of the liquor business themselves. The Bronfmans decided that if they could not sell liquor, they would produce it. The family built its own distillery near Montreal in 1925.

It prospered, and the Bronfmans took advantage of Prohibition by opening more distilleries just across the border from the United States. One that the brothers bought was owned by the Seagram family, and they incorporated the name. When Prohibition ended, they were strategically placed to open a Seagram subsidiary in the United States, in 1933.

“How much business Father and his brothers did with bootleggers was never clear,” Mr. Bronfman wrote in “Good Spirits.”

Edgar and his siblings grew up in aristocratic splendor. Their family’s suburban Montreal mansion was staffed with a butler, a cook, maids, nannies, gardeners and chauffeurs. They spent summers at their country estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., and at the family retreat on Lake Placid in the Adirondacks.

But affluence did not always evoke fond memories. “My childhood was marked by a tension between privilege on the one hand and emotional dysfunction on the other,” Mr. Bronfman wrote in “Good Spirits.” He complained that his father had rarely been around and that his mother had been remote and inaccessible.

Mr. Bronfman said he had grown up with a confused understanding of his Jewish identity. The Bronfmans kept a kosher home, and the children received religious schooling on weekends. But during the week Edgar and his younger brother, Charles, were among a handful of Jews sent to private Anglophile schools, where they attended chapel and ate pork. “No one said anything to my face,” Mr. Bronfman remembered, “but I constantly heard comments denigrating Jews.”

Mr. Bronfman enrolled at Williams College in Massachusetts and then transferred to McGill University in Montreal, graduating in 1951.At 21 he joined Seagram, working as an apprentice taster and accounting clerk in Montreal and then at the main distillery nearby, where he eventually oversaw production. He had a knack for finances and the boldness to tell his tyrannical father how best to handle his money. At 22 he explained that Seagram could reap great tax benefits if it incorporated its petroleum subsidiary and carried out exploration in the United States rather than in Canada.

“Fortunately, Father saw the point at once and agreed,” he wrote.

Mr. Bronfman was a confident executive, safe in the knowledge that as the firstborn son he was the heir apparent. His brother accepted his status and throughout his life deferred to Mr. Bronfman on business decisions. But his oldest sibling, Minda, resented the accident of gender that had removed her from consideration as the eventual heir, despite her degree in business administration. Relations between her and Edgar were strained for most of their lives.

In 1953 Mr. Bronfman married Ann Loeb, a granddaughter of the financier Carl M. Loeb. Loeb, Rhoades & Company helped the Bronfmans purchase the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company.

Mr. Bronfman convinced his father that since the United States accounted for 90 percent of Seagram revenues, it made sense to install himself permanently in New York. In 1953 Samuel Bronfman put Edgar in control of the company’s subsidiary in the United States, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, and placed Charles in charge of the Canadian branch, the House of Seagram.

Mr. Bronfman moved to New York two years later and shortly afterward became an American citizen — although it was his sister Phyllis, who had studied architecture, who was put in charge of the construction of the new company headquarters, the Seagram Building, on Park Avenue, designed by Mies van der Rohe and considered a jewel of modern skyscraper design.

At its zenith, in 1956, Seagram’s products accounted for one of every three distilled-alcohol drinks in the United States. Then its market share began to slide. To compensate for the losses, Mr. Bronfman squeezed more profits from less production, using modern cost-cutting methods and focusing on more expensive brands of whiskey.

But he was frustrated by his inability to wrest full control of Seagram from his aging father, and he began to dabble in film and television production. After losing a bid for MGM to the financier Kirk Kerkorian, however, he returned full time to the beverage business.

With the death of his father in 1971, Mr. Bronfman’s personal life began to unravel. That same year he separated from his wife, with whom he had five children. After their divorce, he married Lady Carolyn Townshend, in 1973, but that marriage also ended in divorce, a year later. He quickly became involved with another Englishwoman, Rita Webb (who changed her name to Georgiana). They married and divorced each other twice, and had two daughters. He then married Jan Aronson, an artist and a former triathlete.

He is survived by Ms. Aronson; his sons, Samuel, Edgar Jr., Matthew and Adam, and his daughter Holly Bronfman Lev, all from his first marriage; his daughters with Ms. Webb, Sara Igtet and Clare Bronfman; his brother, Charles; his sister Phyllis Lambert; 24 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

In 1975, Samuel Bronfman II was kidnapped in New York and held for ransom. Mr. Bronfman himself delivered the $2.4 million ransom to one of his son’s two kidnappers, who were both arrested shortly afterward by the F.B.I. But the kidnappers’ lawyer claimed in court that the abduction had been a hoax and that Sam Bronfman had been a part of it. In the end, the jury convicted the defendants of the lesser charge of extortion.

With liquor consumption in decline in 1981, Mr. Bronfman tried to buy Conoco, a major oil and gas company. Seagram lost out to DuPont in the bidding but, because of its investment in Conoco, ended up with a 20 percent share of DuPont — and soon raised this to almost 25 percent, making Seagram DuPont’s largest minority shareholder.

Initially, most Wall Street analysts and the financial press took the position that Seagram had been outdueled for Conoco by DuPont. A 1981 Business Week article quoted a DuPont senior executive as saying jokingly that he enjoyed drinking “Seagram on the rocks.” But by 1985 its stake in DuPont accounted for nearly 75 percent of Seagram’s earnings, and Mr. Bronfman was being hailed as a smart, risk-taking businessman.

At the same time, Mr. Bronfman was becoming increasingly involved in Jewish causes. He was elected president of the World Jewish Congress in 1981. “Making money is marvelous, and I love doing it, and I do it reasonably well,” he told The New York Times in 1986, “but it doesn’t have the gripping vitality that you have when you deal with the happiness of human life and with human deprivation.

As his devotion to Jewish causes grew, he reduced his involvement with Seagram and prepared to turn over the company to the next generation. By family tradition his oldest son, Sam, was the logical successor, but he favored his second son, Edgar Jr., and without consulting either, Mr. Bronfman announced his choice in a 1986 interview with Fortune magazine. It would be Edgar Jr.

“It took Sam a long time to get over the hurt that I had inflicted,” Mr. Bronfman later conceded. “But my responsibility was to choose the right C.E.O. for Seagram regardless of presumed birthright or familial relationship.”

Edgar Bronfman Jr. became president of Seagram in 1989 and chief executive in 1994. With his father’s approval, he sold Seagram’s shares in DuPont and used the proceeds, more than $9 billion, to purchase MCA, a major Hollywood film and music company, which was later split into Universal Studios and Universal Music.

DuPont’s share price doubled within four years, while Seagram’s stock barely budged during the long bull market of the 1990s. Undeterred, Edgar Jr. spent billions more on entertainment.

In 1998 he bought PolyGram, the giant music company, but the resulting conglomerate floundered, forcing him to seek a strategic partner. So in 2000 he negotiated yet another controversial deal, an all-stock acquisition of the French conglomerate Vivendi. He briefly became chief executive of the new company, Vivendi Universal, but after Seagram lost control of its entertainment holdings, he stepped down from an executive capacity in 2001. Seagram then sold its beverage business. In 2004, Edgar Jr. acquired Warner Music Group.

Edgar Sr., for his part, became a major philanthropist through the family foundation, with a focus on Jewish educational and social programs in the United States and Israel. At New York University, he helped establish the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mr. Bronfman also wrote four autobiographical books.

His work with the World Jewish Congress also accelerated. In the 1990s the Congress, spurred by Mr. Bronfman, negotiated with Eastern European countries to recover — or at least receive compensation for — the property of Jews that had been seized first by the Nazis and then by the Communists.

In the late ’90s, the Congress became one of the foremost critics of Switzerland’s role during World War II, accusing Swiss banks of having stolen the deposits of European Jews who died during the war. After several years of bitter negotiations, Swiss banks agreed in 1999 to distribute at least $1.25 billion in compensation to relatives of European Jews who had secretly deposited their money in Switzerland before perishing at the Nazis’ hands.

Mr. Bronfman acknowledged that he could be abrasive in pursuing Jewish causes, but he defended his approach, telling The Times in 1986, “I would like every Jew to be as comfortable in his skin as I am in mine.”




Librado Romero/The New York Times

Al Goldstein at Screw magazine’s headquarters in 1998. “I’m infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies,” he said.


Published: December 19, 2013

  • Al Goldstein, the scabrous publisher whose Screw magazine pushed hard-core pornography into the cultural mainstream, died on Thursday at a nursing home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. He was 77.


Eddie Hausner/The New York Times

Al Goldstein in 1981. He started Screw magazine in 1968.

A 1969 issue of Screw magazine.

The cause was believed to be renal failure, his lawyer, Charles C. DeStefano, said.

Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine, but he was the first to present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of classiness or subtlety. Sex as depicted in Screw was seldom pretty, romantic or even particularly sexy. It was, primarily, a business, with consumers and suppliers like any other.

The manifesto in Screw’s debut issue in 1968 was succinct. “We promise never to ink out a pubic hair or chalk out an organ,” it read. “We will apologize for nothing. We will uncover the entire world of sex. We will be the Consumer Reports of sex.”

Mr. Goldstein, who lived to shock and offend and was arrested more than a dozen times on obscenity charges, stuck around long enough for social mores and technology to overtake him. By the time his company went bankrupt in 2003, he was no longer a force in the $10-billion-a-year industry he pioneered. But for better or worse, his influence was undeniable.

“He clearly coarsened American sensibilities,” Alan M. Dershowitz, the civil liberties advocate and Mr. Goldstein’s sometime lawyer, said in 2004.

“Hefner did it with taste,” Mr. Dershowitz added, referring to Hugh Hefner, the founder and publisher of Playboy, which predated Screw by 15 years. “Goldstein’s contribution is to be utterly tasteless.”

Apart from Screw, Mr. Goldstein’s most notorious creation was Al Goldstein himself, a cartoonishly vituperative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free-range social critic and sex-obsessed loser who seemed to embody a moment in New York City’s cultural history: the sleaze and decay of Times Square in the 1960s and ‘70s.

A bundle of insatiable neuroses and appetites (he once weighed around 350 pounds), Mr. Goldstein used and abused the bully pulpit of his magazine and, later, his flesh-parading public-access cable show, “Midnight Blue,” to curse his countless enemies, among them the Nixon administration, an Italian restaurant that omitted garlic from its spaghetti sauce, himself and, most troubling to his defenders, his own family.

“I’m infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies,” he told Playboy in 1974. “There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.”

Alvin Goldstein was born on Jan. 10, 1936, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of two sons of Sam and Gertrude Goldstein. His father was a news photographer.

Mr. Goldstein spent much of his childhood stuttering, wetting the bed, getting beaten up by bullies and amassing the portfolio of grudges that would fuel his passions. A lifelong habitué of psychoanalysts’ couches, he blamed a meek father and an adulterous, insensitive mother for his complexes in his 2006 autobiography, “I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life,” written with Josh Alan Friedman.

Before he found his calling, Mr. Goldstein served in the Army, captained the debate team at Pace College and briefly followed his father’s footsteps into photojournalism, taking pictures of Jacqueline Kennedy on a 1962 state trip to Pakistan and spending several days in a Cuban prison for taking unauthorized photos of Fidel Castro’s brother, Raúl. He married miserably, sold insurance successfully by day and sought solace in pornographic movie houses and brothels by night.

After his marriage failed, Mr. Goldstein drifted. According to Gay Talese’s book “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” Mr. Goldstein ran a dime-pitch concession at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair; sold rugs, encyclopedias and his own blood; drove a cab; and landed a job as an industrial spy, infiltrating a labor union. That experience so appalled him that he wrote an exposé about it for The New York Free Press, a radical weekly.

The article did not make the splash Mr. Goldstein was hoping for, but he became friends with one of The Press’s editors, Jim Buckley, and persuaded him that there was money to be made covering the growing commercial sex scene, which the establishment press mentioned only to vilify.

Investing $175 apiece, the two men published the first issue of Screw in November 1968: a 12-page Baedeker to the underworld featuring blue-movie reviews, nude photos, a guide to dirty bookstores and a field test by Mr. Goldstein of an artificial vagina.

Although they had difficulty finding a willing distributor for a tabloid whose first cover featured a photograph of a bikini-clad brunette stroking a large kosher salami, Screw’s circulation soon reached 100,000 — or so Mr. Goldstein claimed (it was never audited) — and the magazine stepped up its ambitions.

As quasi-legal, discreetly misnamed “massage parlors” multiplied across the city in the early 1970s, Mr. Goldstein assigned himself to visit and rate each one. He claimed that his early, enthusiastic review of the movie “Deep Throat” helped turn it into hard-core pornography’s first bona fide mainstream hit.

An issue in 1973 with frontally nude photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sold more than a half-million copies, Mr. Goldstein said — a fraction of the seven million Playboy sold in those days, but enough to raise Mr. Goldstein’s profile considerably.

With renown came obscenity arrests and lawsuits, which Mr. Goldstein in turn milked for maximum publicity. (He also wrote numerous scathing editorials accusing his accusers of hypocrisy, often accompanied by crude photo collages showing them engaged in humiliating sex acts.) Mr. Goldstein, claiming First Amendment protection, beat most of the charges, occasionally paying nominal fines.

In 1973, though, a United States Supreme Court decision made it easier to prosecute pornographers. Before then, one legal test for obscenity was whether a publication was “utterly without redeeming social value.” The 1973 decision broadened the definition to include material that lacked “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” and it empowered communities to set local standards for whether such material was obscene.

This led federal prosecutors to direct some postmasters in Kansas to order copies of Screw. Upon delivery, Mr. Goldstein was charged with 12 obscenity and conspiracy counts and faced up to 60 years in prison.

His lawyers argued that the anticensorship diatribes in Screw made the magazine sufficiently political, though Mr. Goldstein himself ridiculed this defense, insisting that a reader’s erection “is its own redeeming value.” After three years and two trials his conviction in the first was overturned, and the second ended in a hung jury. Mr. Goldstein’s company, Milky Way Productions, paid a $30,000 fine in return for the dropping of personal charges against him and Mr. Buckley.

Mr. Goldstein also won a copyright suit filed by the Pillsbury Company after Screw depicted its signature doughboy in flagrante, and an invasion-of-privacy suit filed by an actress in a cracker commercial that Mr. Goldstein repurposed for “Midnight Blue.”

Screw made Mr. Goldstein rich enough to afford a townhouse down the block from Bill Cosby on the Upper East Side. But as time went on and hard-core pornography became widely available, the magazine seemed less and less radical, and he began losing interest.

“There is a pattern to American life that what is avant-garde becomes commonplace,” Mr. Goldstein said in 1981. “The mass market eventually assimilates that which is innovative or revolutionary.”

Mr. Goldstein began a dozen other magazines, with titles like Death, Smut, Cigar and Mobster Times, all of which failed. He bought a mansion in Pompano Beach, Fla., where he made an abortive run for county sheriff in 1992.

Gradually, Mr. Goldstein’s empire declined. The Village Voice and other newspapers, many of them free, siphoned off the ads for escort services that were Screw’s mainstay. Mr. Goldstein failed to stake out strong positions in the booming sectors of video and Internet pornography.

Meanwhile, his vendettas came to seem more petty and personal. He was convicted in 2002 of harassing a former secretary in the pages of Screw, though that conviction, too, was overturned. After his son, Jordan, disinvited him to his graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein’s third ex-wife, Gena.

Mr. Goldstein eventually married five times. His survivors include his son. Mr. Goldstein was long estranged from his fifth wife, Christine.

In quick succession starting in 2003, Mr. Goldstein lost his company, his Florida mansion and a series of subsistence jobs in New York, including one as a greeter at the Second Avenue Deli. In 2004, while living in a homeless shelter, he was arrested and charged with stealing books from a Barnes & Noble store.

His long decline found him bouncing from his in-laws’ floor in Queens to Veterans Affairs hospitals to a cramped apartment on Staten Island paid for by his friend, the magician Penn Jillette, to the Brooklyn nursing home where he spent most of his final years.

There were some late bright spots, though. He was briefly a star catering salesman for a Manhattan bagel store. He blogged for Booble, a website devoted to the pornography business.

And at age 69, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Adult Video News Awards for his age-defying role in “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Are Screwed.”

“Only in America,” Mr. Goldstein said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 19, 2013

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the name of a movie Mr. Goldstein starred in. It is “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Are Screwed,” not “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Get Screwed.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 20, 2013

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the location of the Manhattan townhouse Mr. Goldstein bought in the wake of his initial success. It was on the Upper East Side, not the Upper West Side.





Published: December 18, 2013

  • Cynthia Eagle Russett, a historian whose best-known book explored attempts by Victorian thinkers to scientifically “prove” women’s inferiority, died on Dec. 5 in New Haven. She was 76.

Michael Marsland/Yale University

Cynthia Eagle Russett in her office at Yale.

Harvard University Press

Professor Russett attracted widespread attention for “Sexual Science,” her book that looked at scientists’ contribution to the oppression of women.

The cause was multiple myeloma, according to Yale University, where she was the Larnard professor of history.

A historian of 19th- and 20th-century intellectual life, Professor Russett attracted wide attention with her book “Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood,” published by Harvard University Press in 1989. The book examined the effect that the era’s newfound scientific knowledge had on the larger society, particularly where questions of sexual parity were concerned.

At a time when first-wave feminism was starting to roil the status quo, male thinkers, Professor Russett showed, strove to uphold it by invoking science to argue for women’s innate inadequacy.

“On the one hand, notions of female inferiority — physical, mental and moral — dating as they did from antiquity, could hardly be considered novel,” she wrote. “On the other hand, by virtue of the specificity of detail and inclusiveness of theory at its command, science was able to provide a newly plausible account of this inferiority. Measuring limbs, pondering viscera, reckoning up skulls, the new mandarins of gender difference were able to spell out in chapter and verse the manifold distinctions of sex.”

Among the most conspicuous offenders, Professor Russett wrote, was Charles Darwin, whose theory of human evolution had revolutionized the understanding of mankind’s place in the cosmos — but who then used that theory to argue for womankind’s continued subordination therein.

“Darwin had surmised that male intelligence, sharpened in both the struggle for mates and the struggle for survival, descended in its enhanced form, as a kind of secondary sex characteristic, to male offspring alone,” she wrote. “A similar conception governed the belief, widespread among anthropologists, that men and women were becoming more and more differentiated as civilization progressed.”

Reviewing “Sexual Science” in The New York Times Book Review, Janet Horowitz Murray said that Professor Russett “makes an able, patient and often witty guide to this museum of specious ideas,” adding, “For however ludicrous these Victorian would-be rulers of creation may now appear, we cannot afford to forget that their foolish theories about the nature of womanhood contributed significantly to the very real misery of thousands of actual women.”

Cynthia Eagle was born in Pittsburgh on Feb. 1, 1937. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Trinity College in Washington (now Trinity Washington University), followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in the field from Yale, whose faculty she joined in 1967.

Her other books include “Darwin in America: The Intellectual Response, 1865-1912” (1976), “The Extraordinary Mrs. R: A Friend Remembers Eleanor Roosevelt” (1999, with William Turner Levy) and “Second to None: A Documentary History of American Women” (1993), which she edited with Ruth Barnes Moynihan and Laurie Crumpacker.

A resident of Hamden, Conn., Professor Russett is survived by her husband of 53 years, Bruce Russett, a Yale political scientist; four children, Margaret, Mark, Lucia and Daniel Russett; and three grandchildren.

In the concluding passage of “Sexual Science,” Professor Russett situated the stance of Darwin and his fellows in the context of their time — and, looking forward, in that of the present day:

“The construction of womanhood by Victorian scientists grew out of and was responsive to the very human needs of a particular historical moment,” she wrote. “It needs to be seen for the masculine power play that it was, but it needs to be seen also as an intellectual monument, etched in fear, of the painful transition to the modern worldview.”


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Gaia lift-off

ESA / S. Corvaja

Gaia Launches to Pinpoint a Billion Stars

December 18, 2013                                                                | Gaia launched flawlessly Thursday morning at 9:12 UTC (4:12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time). This long-awaited mission will precisely map the distances and motions of 1 billion stars in our galaxy. > read more

Comet ISON: What We’ve Learned

December 17, 2013                                                                | Comet ISON’s untimely demise didn’t prevent scientists from studying it, revealing the comet to be smaller than previously thought and harboring high concentrations of carbon. > read more

Chang’e 3 Brings Rover to Lunar Surface

December 14, 2013                                                                | For the first time since 1976, a spacecraft has landed safely on the Moon. Within hours, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 3 had deployed an instrumented rover. > read more

Putting Exoplanets on the Scale

December 19, 2013                                                                | Astronomers have come up with a new technique for measuring an alien planet’s mass, and therefore its composition and potential habitability, even when standard methods don’t work. > read more

The Crab’s Surprise Molecule

December 16, 2013                                                                | Astronomers have identified a molecule containing the noble gas argon in the Crab Nebula. It’s the first such molecule detected in space and confirms predictions of where a certain argon isotope is created in the cosmos. > read more


Venus on May 31, 2012

See Venus’s Thin Crescent

December 17, 2013                                                                | Venus usually appears pretty boring through a telescope. But from mid-December to mid-February it’s a spectacularly long, thin crescent. > read more

Tour December’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

December 1, 2013                                                                  | December’s crystal-clear skies offer Venus low in the west after sunset, a “tower of brilliance” (including Jupiter) rising in the east, and the prospect of a nice showing by Comet ISON in the predawn sky early in the month. > read more


Comet ISON on Nov. 15, 2013

Damian Peach /

S&T‘s Comet ISON Photo Contest

December 6, 2013                                                                | The “comet of the century” famously lost its battle against the Sun, but our photo contest carries on with a chance to win some hefty prizes. And there’s only about 1 week to the deadline! > read more

Advanced Imaging Conference 2013 Videos

December 20, 2013                                                                | Watch senior editor Dennis di Cicco’s interviews with vendors at the October 2013 Advanced Imaging Conference. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Pre-dawn view, looking southwest

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

December 20, 2013                                                                  | As the solstice passes, the Great Square turns on end and a Christmas-ornament star emerges through bare trees. > read more

            SkyWeek Television Show
Watch SkyWeekAs seen on PBS television stations nationwide

Sponsors: Meade Instruments Woodland Hills Camera & Telescope

Click here to watch this week's episode            

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Here is an update on the fight over changing the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, located in Jacksonville, Florida.

I originally posted on this issue  here.

It was a long time coming, but, decency and acknowledging history finally won out.


Florida School Named After Klan Leader to Change Name

By Mark Potok on December 18, 2013 – 10:04 am

Forty-three years after it was integrated by court order, Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla., will drop the name of the Confederate general who ran an infamous antebellum slaveyard, presided over the massacre of surrendering black Yankee troops, and was the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

It was a long time coming.

Initial efforts to change the name of the school, whose student body is now 61% black, were made in the early 1990s but failed. A second attempt, led by local sociology professor Lance Stoll and a few of his students, also failed in 2007, even though Stoll surveyed the local community and jumped through a series of hoops imposed by the school board. The board defied its own policies then, with members voting 5-2 along racial lines to keep the name of the infamous Confederate.

But this Monday, culminating the largest campaign yet, the board, all of whose members but one are new since 2007, voted unanimously to select a new name before August 2014. Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who supported the change from the beginning, said it could end a “cloud of divisiveness” and would now “allow us to focus on what matters most — student achievement.”

“We recognize that we cannot and are not seeking to erase history,” Duval County School Board member Constance Hall said. “For too long and too many, this name has represented the opposite of unity, respect and equality — all that we expect in Duval schools. Our board has [been] and is guided by a set of core values that promote equal opportunity, honors differences, and values diversity.”

Stoll said he was glad for the change but still amazed at the stiff defense of the name put up by many locals. “Their argument was so shallow and so ridiculous,” he told Hatewatch. “You can’t defend Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was a miserable, despicable human being. And the Confederacy was a horrible place. Why do we allow our schools to be named after treasonous people? It’s just amazing.”

It wasn’t easy. In addition to Stoll, a key player this time was Otomayo Richmond, who started a national petition on the website that eventually garnered some 160,000 signatures. The local NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the local Democratic Party, several unions and others worked hard to press the campaign forward, Stoll said. “In 2007, it was me and two or three students,” he said. “This time, we had a broad coalition and the social media. I think the people running Jacksonville today don’t want to be a redneck town any more.”

In recent surveys, 94% of the school’s alumni opposed changing the name. But 64% of students supported the change, as did Vitti and, ultimately, all members of the multiracial board. By a small margin, the local community also backed a change.

Still, it was an uphill battle that may have turned on a single moment about six weeks ago. “Every board member received a letter from the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan of Missouri,” Stoll said. “Even the most conservative people on the school board said they were horrified. That was the best thing that happened.”


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


The-Son-of-Man-Rene-Magritte-1954The Son of Man, by Rene François Ghislain Magritte. Oil on canvas, 116 cm x 89 cm, 1964.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized




Quick Facts

The United Nations’ (UN) International Migrants Day is celebrated on December 18 each year.

Local names

Name Language
International Migrants Day English
Día Internacional del Migrante Spanish
יום המהגרים בינלאומי Hebrew
اليوم الدولي للمهاجرين Arabic
국제 이민자의 날 Korean
Internationaler Tag der Migranten German

International Migrants Day 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

International Migrants Day 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The United Nations’ (UN) International Migrants Day is annually held on December 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.

Muslim child and mother expressing joy.International Migrants Day recognizes the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.


What do people do?

Each year the UN invites governments, organizations, and individuals to observe International Migrants Day by distributing information on the human rights and migrants’ fundamental freedoms. People are also invited to share their experiences and contribute to designing action plans to ensure their protection. Organizations actively involved in promoting the day include:

  • “December 18”, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the UN.
  • Radio 1812, an initiative that brings together radio stations to celebrate the day.
  • Amnesty International.
  • The International Organization for Migration.
  • The National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.

Many organizations and communities celebrate the day through various activities to alert the general public on facts about migrants, problems with human trafficking, the lives of migrant workers’ children, the plight of refugees and ways in combating racism. Websites, such as, gives people the opportunity to have a virtual experience of what it is like to come from a migrant background. Lobby groups may also use this day as an opportunity to pressure local public officials to look at issues concerning legalization, immigrant enforcement and migrants’ human rights. Special films and documentaries about migrants are also screened or broadcast on this day.

Public life

International Migrants Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


According to a Global Commission on International Migration report in 2005, the number of international migrants increased from 75 million to about 200 million in the past 30 years and migrants could be found in every part of the world. The report also found that the migration could accelerate due to the growing developmental, demographic and democratic disparities that existed between different world regions. Moreover, migration is driven by powerful economic, social and political forces that governments need to acknowledge as a reality.

On December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants. On that day, a decade earlier, the assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Earlier celebrations of the day can be traced as far back as 1997 when some Asian migrant organizations marked December 18 as the day to recognize the rights, protection, and respect for migrants.


The UN emblem may be found in material promoting International Migrants 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 Migrants Day Observances


Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Mon Dec 18 2000 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Tue Dec 18 2001 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Wed Dec 18 2002 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 18 2003 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Sat Dec 18 2004 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 18 2005 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Mon Dec 18 2006 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Tue Dec 18 2007 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 18 2008 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Fri Dec 18 2009 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Sat Dec 18 2010 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 18 2011 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Tue Dec 18 2012 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Wed Dec 18 2013 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Thu Dec 18 2014 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Fri Dec 18 2015 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Sun Dec 18 2016 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Mon Dec 18 2017 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Tue Dec 18 2018 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Wed Dec 18 2019 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
Fri Dec 18 2020 International Migrants Day United Nations observance

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-15-2013


  • Columbia Pictures/Photofest
  • Adam Larkey/ABC
  • Avco Embassy Pictures, via Associated Press
  • Everett Collection
  • Ken Danvers/Columbia Pictures
  • MGM/United Artists Entertainment
  • Derek Speirs for The New York Times
Peter O’Toole with Omar Sharif in the film “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Arriving at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2007.
As King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter,” with Katharine Hepburn.
As the crazed 14th Earl of Gurney in “The Ruling Class.”
Playing the title role in the 1965 film “Lord Jim.”
As Alan Swann in “My Favorite Year,” with Mark Linn-Baker.
As Pope Paul III in the television series “The Tudors.”


Published: December 15, 2013

  • Peter O’Toole, an Irish bookmaker’s son with a hell-raising streak whose performance in the 1962 epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” earned him overnight fame and established him as one of his generation’s most charismatic actors, died on Saturday in London. He was 81.

His daughter Kate O’Toole said in a statement that he had been ill for some time.

Blond, blue-eyed and well over six feet tall, Mr. O’Toole had the dashing good looks and high spirits befitting a leading man — and he did not disappoint in “Lawrence,” David Lean’s wide-screen, almost-four-hour homage to T. E. Lawrence, the daring British soldier and adventurer who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks in the Middle East in World War I.

The performance brought Mr. O’Toole the first of eight Academy Award nominations, a flood of film offers and a string of artistic successes in the ’60s and early ’70s. In the theater — he was a classically trained actor — he played an anguished, angular tramp in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and a memorably battered title character in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.” In film, he twice played a robust King Henry II: first opposite Richard Burton in “Becket” (1964), then with Katharine Hepburn as his queen in “The Lion in Winter” (1968). Both earned Oscar nominations for best actor, as did his repressed, decaying schoolmaster in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” in 1970 and the crazed 14th Earl of Gurney in “The Ruling Class” in 1973.

Less successful was his Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Arthur Hiller’s 1972 adaptation of the Broadway musical, but it emphasized that his specialty was increasingly becoming the outsider or misfit: dreamy, romantic, turbulent, damaged, or even mad, but usually larger than life.

Mr. O’Toole threw himself wholeheartedly into what he called “bravura acting,” courting and sometimes deserving the accusation that he became over-theatrical, mannered, even hammy. His lanky, loose-jointed build; his eyes; his long, lantern-jawed face; his oddly languorous sexual charm; and the eccentric loops and whoops of his voice tended to reinforce the impression of power and extravagance.

Burton called him “the most original actor to come out of Britain since the war,” with “something odd, mystical and deeply disturbing” in his work.

Some critics called him the next Laurence Olivier. As a young actor, Mr. O’Toole displayed an authority that the critic Kenneth Tynan said “may presage greatness.” In 1958, the director Peter Hall called Mr. O’Toole’s Hamlet in a London production “electrifying” and “unendurably exciting” — a display of “animal magnetism and danger which proclaimed the real thing.”

He showed those strengths somewhat erratically, however; for all his accolades and his box-office success, there was a lingering note of unfulfilled promise in Mr. O’Toole.

It was no surprise when Olivier chose Mr. O’Toole to inaugurate Britain’s National Theater Company in 1963 with a reprise of his Hamlet. But the first night left most critics unmoved and unexcited and the actor himself lamenting “the most humbling, humiliating experience of my life.”

“As it went on,” he said, “I suddenly knew it wasn’t going to be any good.”

A production in 1965 of David Mercer’s “Ride a Cock Horse,” in which he played an adulterous alcoholic, was booed at its London opening.

In the movies, he continued to be a marquee name, though he drew only mixed reviews for a subsequent run of performances: as the cowardly naval officer seeking redemption in “Lord Jim,” Richard Brooks’s 1965 adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel; as a playboy in “What’s New, Pussycat?,” a 1965 comedy with Peter Sellers that was written by a young Woody Allen; and as the Three Angels in “The Bible: In the Beginning,” John Huston’s 1966 recreation of Genesis. And his sadistic Nazi general in Anatole Litvak’s “Night of the Generals” (1967) was panned outright.

His carousing became legend, particularly in the 1970s. As he himself said, he had long been “happy to grasp the hand of misfortune, dissipation, riotous living and violence,” counting Burton, Richard Harris, Robert Shaw, Francis Bacon, Trevor Howard, Laurence Harvey and Peter Finch among his drinking companions. He lost much of his “Lawrence” earnings in two nights with Omar Sharif at casinos in Beirut and Casablanca.

At Odds With Hollywood

Though he won many lesser awards during his career, triumph at the Academy Awards eluded him, perhaps in part because he had made no secret of his dislike of Hollywood and naturalistic acting, which he considered drab. He was nothing if not ambitious, but success would come on his own terms, not the movie industry’s. He had made that plain at 18, when an acting career was already in his mind. In his notebook he made a promise to himself: “I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony. I do not crave security. I wish to hazard my soul to opportunity.”

Peter Seamus (some sources say Seamus Peter) O’Toole was born on Aug. 2, 1932, in the Connemara region of the West of Ireland, the son of Constance, a Scotswoman who had been a nurse, and Patrick, an itinerant Irish bookmaker whose dandified dress and manner earned him the nicknames Spats and Captain Pat.

Mr. O’Toole liked to tell interviewers that his background was “not working class but criminal class.” The father was left with a bad right hand after all its knuckles were systematically broken, presumably by creditors.

When Peter was a baby, the family moved to England and settled in a tiny house on a black-cobbled street in an impoverished section of industrial Leeds with a “reek of slag and soot and waste,” as he described it in an autobiography.

Peter was an altar boy at the local Roman Catholic church and displayed a gift for creative writing, but he left school at 13 and became a warehouseman, a messenger, a copy boy, a photographer’s assistant and, eventually, a reporter for The Yorkshire Evening News. A poor journalist by his own admission, he was fired by the editor with the words, “Try something else, be an actor, do anything.”

It was a constructive nudge. (He had already tried his hand at amateur dramatics.) After an obscure debut as a rum-swigging seafarer in a melodrama called “Aloma of the South Seas,” Leeds’s well-regarded Civic Theater cast him in the lead role of Bazarov in an adaptation of Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.”

Though military service intervened, his aspirations came to fruition quickly. At 20 and almost penniless, he went to Stratford to see Michael Redgrave as King Lear.

By his own account, he spent the night in a field filled with hay and manure, hitchhiked to London and ventured into the lobby of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. There he chanced to fall into conversation with the principal, Sir Kenneth Barnes, who encouraged him to apply for an audition. He did, and received a full scholarship. Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford were among his fellow students.

After graduating in 1955 he was invited to join one of Britain’s premier repertory companies, the Bristol Old Vic. He performed with the troupe for three and a half years, and it was there that his Hamlet so impressed Mr. Hall. It brought Mr. O’Toole, at 27, national attention, and Mr. Hall induced him to join his newly founded Royal Shakespeare Company. In Stratford his Petruchio in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” won critical acclaim and the admiration of Mr. Lean, who was casting his screen biography of Lawrence.

An Epic T. E. Lawrence

At six feet two, Mr. O’Toole was not an obvious choice for the role of a five-foot-four scholar-soldier, and the producer, Sam Spiegel, had found him bumptious in a meeting. But after Marlon Brando turned down the role, Lean lobbied for Mr. O’Toole and won the day.

His casting led to a mesmeric yet meticulous performance that brought world renown and an Oscar nomination to an actor whose only notable screen appearance to date had been as a priggish young officer in “The Day They Robbed the Bank of England” in 1960.

Whatever his later reputation as a roisterer, Mr. O’Toole was conscientious when it came to preparing for a role. In the two-odd years it took to shoot “Lawrence,” he read all he could about the man, studied Bedouin culture, lived in a Bedouin tent, taught himself the essentials of Arabic and learned to ride a camel. His acting method, he wrote in his autobiography, was a process that blended “magic” with “sweat,” a matter of allowing a text to flow into his mind and body until he fully inhabited the character — “that simple, that difficult.”

Mr. O’Toole admitted to being “a very physical actor.”

“I use everything — toes, teeth, ears, everything,” he said.After his triumphs of the 1960s and early ’70s, he entered his most troubled period. His earlier binges had led to arrests for unruly behavior; now they caused memory loss and debilitating hangovers. In 1975, he developed pancreatitis and had part of his intestines removed.

Then his much-loved father died, and Sian Phillips, whom Mr. O’Toole had married in 1959, left him for another man, explaining later that her relationship with an egoistic star had become too tempestuous and “too unequal.” Divorce followed in 1979.

Though Mr. O’Toole said he essentially gave up alcohol in 1975, his career continued to sputter. The universally panned 1979 film “Caligula,” in which he played the Emperor Tiberius, was followed in 1980 by one of the most derided theatrical performances of modern times: a Macbeth who attempted to exit through a wall of the rather dark set at the Old Vic on the first night and, according to The Guardian, delivered every line “in a monotonous tenor bark as if addressing an audience of deaf Eskimos.”

Yet there was evidence of recovery, too. The ABC mini-series “Masada,” with Mr. O’Toole as a Roman general resisting freedom fighters in Judea, brought him an Emmy nomination in 1981. He also impressed with a galvanically garrulous Jack Tanner in Shaw’s “Man and Superman” in the West End in 1982.

The flamboyant charm of the autocratic movie director he played in the film “The Stunt Man” brought him a sixth Oscar nomination in 1981, and his playing of Alan Swann, the swashbuckling, Errol Flynn-like thespian of “My Favorite Year,” a seventh in 1983.

The 1980s also brought him unwanted publicity in the form of a long court battle with his second wife, Karen Brown, an American actress with whom he had a son, Lorcan, in 1983. The eventual judgment allowed Mr. O’Toole, already the father of two daughters by Ms. Phillips, to look after the boy while he went to school in England and his mother to have custody during vacations.

A Career’s Ebbs and Flows

Partly as a result, Mr. O’Toole’s professional engagements became fewer. In 1987 his restrained performance as the court tutor in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Emperor” was widely called the strongest in a strong movie. But onstage his Professor Higgins in Shaw’s “Pygmalion” proved more controversial. In 1984, many London critics were admiring; The Observer described him in the role as “monstrous, eccentric, secretive, arrogant, asexual, childlike, cross and vain”; but in 1987, the New York critics were less impressed, and he was not nominated for a Tony Award.

Mr. O’Toole once wryly admitted that he continued to accept roles in inferior films, like “King Ralph,” because “it’s what I do for a living and, besides, I’ve got bookies to keep.” But in the 1990s he displayed his old strengths again and even discovered fresh ones.

He gave a hilarious performance as the erratic Lord Emsworth in a television adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse’s “Heavy Weather” in 1996 and a touching one as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the film “Fairytale — A True Story” in 1997. Most striking was his humorous yet poignant playing of an old Soho drinking buddy in Keith Waterhouse’s biographical play, “Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell,” in 1989, ’91 and ’99. He also reprised the role in a 1999 television movie.

In 2003, he played President Paul von Hindenburg of Germany in the CBS-TV mini-series “Hitler: The Rise of Evil,” and in 2004 he was Priam, father of the doomed Hector, in Wolfgang Petersen’s screen epic “Troy.”

“I’m a professional,” he said in one interview, “and I’ll do anything — a poetry reading, television, cinema, anything that allows me to act.”

Mr. O’Toole earned his eighth best actor nomination for “Venus” (2006), in which he was a lecherous old actor relegated to playing feebleminded royals or men on their deathbeds.

Mr. O’Toole’s personal life, meanwhile, calmed. Though he made regular trips to Ireland, and occasional ones to the racecourse, he came to prefer a settled, reclusive life in his North London house. He published the first two volumes of a projected three-volume autobiography, “Loitering With Intent,” in 1993 (subtitled “The Child”) and 1997 (“The Apprentice”), impressing reviewers with the verve with which he evoked his early years as well as disorienting them with the overblown prose and chronological jumps of what he himself described as “a nonfictional novel.” Apart from his three children — Kate, Pat and Lorcan, who survive him — cricket was Mr. O’Toole’s most lasting love. Indeed, he took a diploma as a professional coach when he was 60, the better to instruct his son and train a London boys’ team. He is also survived by a sister, Patricia Coombs.

But in 1999 he told an interviewer that his only exercise was now “walking behind the coffins of my friends who took exercise.” His once-stormy love life appeared to be over, too. “George Eliot is my only steady girlfriend,” he said. “We go to bed together every night.”

Mellowed, but Not Too Much

Yet the man Johnny Carson described as perhaps his most difficult guest ever was not wholly changed. Mr. O’Toole could be prickly, especially when interviewers asked if he had squandered his talents, or when pet dislikes came up. These included what he called “di-rect-ors,” who he felt had gained too much power over actors; Britain’s National Theater, which he called a “Reich bunker”; and Broadway, which he said was run by “pigs.”

In his later years, he cut not only a raffish figure, continuing to wear green socks in honor of his Irish ancestry and to smoke unfiltered Gauloises from a long cigarette holder, but a gaunt, somewhat intimidating one as well.

Yet his friends knew him as a kindly, generous, responsive man. He claimed that off the stage he sometimes wept with such intensity “that the tears fly out horizontally.” And in the theater his emotional depth was apparent when he played the alcoholic journalist and gambler Jeffrey Bernard. The third and last time he took the role, many felt an essentially comic performance had darkened, deepened and grown in pathos. It was as if Mr. O’Toole were meditating on past loss and waste — as if he were offering a rueful elegy to himself.

In 2000, he was honored with the Outstanding Achievement citation at the Laurence Olivier Awards in London. In 2003, one nomination away from setting a record among actors for the most Oscar nominations without winning — he received an honorary one for lifetime achievement.

At first reluctant to accept, fearing it would somehow signal the end of his career, Mr. O’Toole eventually agreed to the honor as something well earned and started his acceptance speech by saying, not without a note of triumph: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride — my foot. I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death us do part.”


Robert Berkvist and Marc Santora contributed reporting.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 15, 2013

An earlier version of a slide show caption with this article misstated the title and release date of one of the films in which Peter O’Toole starred. It was “How to Steal a Million,” not “How to Steal a Million Dollars,” and it was released in 1966, not 1965.

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the number of times Mr. O’Toole had been unsuccessfully nominated for an acting Oscar in 2003, when he received his honorary award.  At that time, he had been nominated seven times; his eighth unsuccessful nomination came in 2007.  An earlier version also stated in error that he ended his honorary Oscar acceptance speech with the words, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride — my foot.”  He began the speech with those words.  It also misspelled the first name of the film actor Errol Flynn; it is Errol, not Erroll. It also misspelled the name of the director of the 2004 film “Troy.”  He is Wolfgang Petersen, not Peterson.




Published: December 15, 2013

  • Joan Fontaine, the patrician blond actress who rose to stardom as a haunted second wife in the Alfred Hitchcock film “Rebecca” in 1940 and won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a terrified newlywed in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion,” died at her home in Carmel, Calif., on Sunday. She was 96.

John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Joan Fontaine playing the wife of Cary Grant in “Suspicion,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Associated Press

Ms. Fontaine winning at the Academy Awards in 1942.

Archive Photos/Getty Images

Ms. Fontaine, center, in “Rebecca,” with George Sanders and Judith Anderson

Her death was confirmed by her assistant, Susan Pfeiffer.

Ms. Fontaine was only 24 when she took home her Oscar in 1942, the youngest best-actress winner at the time, but her victory was equally notable because her older sister, Olivia de Havilland, was also a nominee that year. The sisters were estranged for most of their adult lives, a situation Ms. Fontaine once attributed to her having married and won an Oscar before Ms. de Havilland did.

Until the Hitchcock films, Ms. Fontaine’s movie career had not looked promising. While Ms. de Havilland was starring opposite Errol Flynn in hits like “Captain Blood” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and captured the coveted role of Melanie Hamilton in “Gone With the Wind,” Ms. Fontaine struggled.

In 1937 and 1938, she made 10 mostly forgettable pictures, alternating between screwball comedies like “Maid’s Night Out,” in which she starred as a socialite mistaken for a servant, and dramas like “The Man Who Found Himself,” in which she played a noble nurse determined to save a hobo’s life.

In 1939, she appeared in two critically acclaimed pictures. She was a minor player in “Gunga Din,” with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., but made an impression in the all-female ensemble cast of “The Women.” Those roles were followed by her career-making performance in “Rebecca,” which Frank S. Nugent praised in The New York Times as the film’s “real surprise” and “greatest delight.”

In the 1940s and ’50s, Ms. Fontaine — only slightly typecast as shy, aristocratic or both — had a thriving movie career, starring opposite the era’s male superstars, including Burt Lancaster, Tyrone Power and James Stewart.

She played the title character in “Jane Eyre” (1944), opposite Orson Welles; a romantic obsessive in both “The Constant Nymph” (1943), for which she received an Oscar nomination, and Max Ophüls’s “Letter From an Unknown Woman” (1948); the prim Lady Rowena in “Ivanhoe” (1952); and a British colonial in the Caribbean in the early race-relations drama “Island in the Sun” (1957). That film’s mere suggestion of an interracial romance, between Ms. Fontaine’s character and Harry Belafonte’s, was considered daring.

She made her Broadway debut in 1954, replacing Deborah Kerr as a headmaster’s sensitive wife who helps a young man affirm his sexuality in “Tea and Sympathy.” Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, preferred Ms. Kerr but called Ms. Fontaine’s performance “forceful and thoughtful” and her New York appearance “one of the better lend-lease deals with Hollywood.”

She returned to Broadway once, in the late 1960s, replacing Julie Harris in the comedy “Forty Carats,” about a middle-aged woman’s romance with a younger man.

Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland was born to British parents on Oct. 22, 1917, in Tokyo, where her father, Walter, a cousin of the aviation pioneer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, was working as a patent lawyer. In 1919, her mother, the former Lillian Ruse, moved with her two daughters to Saratoga, Calif., near San Francisco. The de Havillands divorced, and Lillian married George M. Fontaine, a department store executive, whose surname Joan later took as her stage name.

Ms. Fontaine, who also briefly used the name Joan Burfield (inspired by a Los Angeles street sign), moved back to Japan at 15 to live with her father and to attend the American School there. Returning in 1934, she soon moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.

Her final big-screen roles were the heroine’s jaded older sister in “Tender Is the Night” (1962), based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and a terrified British schoolteacher in “The Devil’s Own,” a 1966 horror film.

Ms. Fontaine married and divorced four times. Her first husband was Brian Aherne, the British-born stage and film actor, whom she married in 1939 and divorced in 1945. She married William Dozier, a film producer, in 1946, and they had a daughter. After their divorce in 1951, she was married to Collier Young, a film and television writer-producer, from 1952 to 1961, and Alfred Wright Jr., a Sports Illustrated editor, from 1964 to 1969.

In 1952, she took in a 5-year-old Peruvian girl, Martita Pareja Calderon. When the girl ran away in her teens, Ms. Fontaine was unable to bring her home because she had never formally adopted the girl in the United States.

Ms. Fontaine is survived by her sister, Ms. de Havilland; a daughter, Deborah Dozier Potter of Santa Fe, N.M.; and a grandson.

She continued acting well into her 70s. She appeared in television movies, including “The Users” (1978) and “Crossings” (1986), based on a Danielle Steel novel. A series of appearances on the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope” in 1980 led to a Daytime Emmy nomination. Her final screen role was as a supportive royal grandmother in “Good King Wenceslas” (1994) on the Family Channel. She also did theater across the United States and abroad, but never returned to film.

“Looking back on Hollywood, looking at it even today,” Ms. Fontaine wrote in “No Bed of Roses” (Morrow, 1978), her autobiography, “I realize that one outstanding quality it possesses is not the lavishness, the perpetual sunshine, the golden opportunities, but fear.” Just as “careers often begin by chance there,” she observed, “they can evaporate just as quickly.”





Published: December 13, 2013

  • Don Mitchell, an actor best known for playing Raymond Burr’s assistant on the NBC police drama “Ironside” in the 1960s and ’70s, died on Sunday at his home in Encino, Calif.


Don Mitchell, left, and Raymond Burr in “Ironside,” on NBC.

His death was confirmed by Joseph Babineaux, the publicist for one of his daughters, the actress Julia Pace Mitchell.

“Ironside” starred Mr. Burr as Robert T. Ironside, a retired detective who used a wheelchair. Mr. Mitchell played Mark Sanger, an ex-convict who became Ironside’s bodyguard and assistant. He remained with the show from its debut as a made-for-TV movie in 1967 until it went off the air eight seasons later; along the way his character joined the police force and became a judge.

Mr. Mitchell also appeared on shows like “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Fugitive” and “The Virginian,” and with Pam Grier and William Marshall in the 1973 film “Scream Blacula, Scream.”

According to most sources, Donald Michael Mitchell was born on March 17, 1943, in Houston. He studied acting at the University of California, Los Angeles. He reprised the role of Mark Sanger in his last credited acting role, in the TV movie “The Return of Ironside,” in 1993.

His marriages to the actress Judy Pace and to Emilie Blake Walker ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Pace Mitchell, he is survived by another daughter, Shawn Meshelle Mitchell.

A remake of “Ironside,” starring Blair Underwood in the Raymond Burr role, appeared on NBC this fall without a Mark Sanger. It was canceled after a handful of episodes.





Published: December 15, 2013, at 7:29 PM ET

  • NEW YORK — Actor-writer-director Tom Laughlin, whose production and marketing of “Billy Jack” set a standard for breaking the rules on and off screen, has died.

Laughlin’s daughter told The Associated Press that he died Thursday at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Laughlin was 82 and Teresa Laughlin, who acted in the Billy Jack movies, said the cause of death was complications from pneumonia.

“Billy Jack” was released in 1971 after a long struggle by Laughlin to gain control of the low-budget, self-financed movie, a model for guerrilla filmmaking.

He wrote, directed and produced “Billy Jack” and starred as the ex-Green Beret who defends a progressive school against the racists of a conservative Western community. The film became a counterculture favorite and the theme song, “One Tin Soldier,” was a hit single for the rock group Coven.

Laughlin was in his mid-30s when he created Billy Jack with his wife and collaborator, Delores Taylor. Billy Jack was half-white, half Native American, a Vietnam veteran and practitioner of martial arts who had come to hate war. Billy Jack was first seen in the 1968 biker movie “Born Losers,” but became widely known after “Billy Jack,” the second of four films Laughlin made about him (only three made it to theaters).

“Billy Jack” was completed in 1969, but its release was delayed for two years as Laughlin struggled to find studio backing. He eventually successfully sued Warner Bros. to retain rights and — with no support from Hollywood or from theater chains — Laughlin made a radical decision: Distribute the movie himself and rent theaters to show it in. He also was among the first to advertise on television and to immediately open a movie nationwide, rather than release it gradually.

“Billy Jack” initially flopped at the box office, but generated an underground following and became a substantial commercial success and inspiration to independent filmmakers. The title character has been cited as a forerunner for such screen avengers as Rambo.

Laughlin was born in 1931 and grew up in Milwaukee. He played football for the University of South Dakota (where he met his future wife) and Marquette University, but decided he wanted to become an actor after seeing a stage production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“He was profoundly affected by the poverty he saw on the Indian reservations near the University of South Dakota,” Teresa Laughlin said. “I think the seeds of the Billy Jack character started there.”

His early film credits included “South Pacific,” ”Gidget” and Robert Altman’s “The Delinquents.” Laughlin also was interested in directing and writing and by 1960 had directed, written and starred in “The Young Sinner.”

Laughlin wasn’t only a filmmaker. He ran for president as both a Republican and Democrat and founded a Montessori school in California. He was an opponent of nuclear energy and a longtime advocate for Native Americans and bonded with another actor-activist, Marlon Brando.

In recent years, he wrote books and attempted to make another Billy Jack movie.

“There had been lots of interest and deals would sort of come together and not happen,” said Teresa Laughlin, who noted that her father had also battled cancer. “One of the prime reasons that he couldn’t get a deal was his failing health and, I think, his inability to come to terms with that. In his mind’s eye, he remained Billy Jack.”

He is survived by his wife, a sister, three children and five grandchildren.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Profanity-Laced Video Shows ‘Patrol’ That Led to Craig Cobb’s Menacing Charge

By Don Terry on December 10, 2013 – 3:58 pm

As he sits in a mental health ward in a state hospital in North Dakota, Craig Cobb, the neo-Nazi who recently discovered on national television that he is 14 percent black, must be thinking there’s no loyalty among thieves – or his fellow racists.

The white nationalists at the Occidental Dissent website posted two silly and embarrassing 13-minute YouTube videos today of Cobb and his racist acolyte and roommate, Kynan Dutton, “patrolling” the streets of Leith, N.D., the tiny town Cobb had hoped to turn into a white enclave.

The videos are tagged on the Occidental site as “humor,” probably because there was no category for “pathetic.”

Dutton’s wife, Deborah, shot the videos on Nov. 16, on a smartphone, as she followed the men, who were both armed with rifles, wandering the unpaved streets of Leith. The patrol came to a halt as Cobb shouted at a woman, calling her “a fucking cunt” and at a man he damned as a “son-of-a-bitch Christian.”

At least Dutton, a 29-year-old ex-soldier, was dressed for the part in black boots and camouflage pants. Cobb, on the other hand, looked like he was running to the store for some milk for his cat. The 62-year-old racist had on jeans, a windbreaker, white socks and black sandals.

“Hey, fuck you with your double-talk Christian shit, man,” Cobb shouts at a resident watching the armed men walk through the town, population 16. “You act like a man. You go up there and tell the rest of them to comport themselves with some goddamned dignity. Fuck you. You fucking kike, Jew cocker sucker.”

“I can only control my own behavior,” the man responds. “I can’t control what everyone else does.”

“I can control mine, too,” Cobb says. “I’m not shooting you, am I? Fuck you.”

“This is called protection,” Dutton’s wife pipes in. “We have a legal right.”

“Do you think this is going to win people over to what you’re trying to do?” the resident asks.

“Hey, listen asshole,” Cobb shouts back. “I’m one of the most famous racists in the world, you son of a bitch. Don’t talk to me about winning people over.”

“I know you are,” the resident says. “But I’m asking, do you think this is going to win people over?

“Jackasses like you, we don’t care,” Cobb says. “You’re a tool of the kikes. You understand. You’re deceived up in your own brain. You think you’re really somebody. Fuck you and your fucking pie-in-the sky, spooks-in-the-sky crap.”

Cobb rants on and eventually the man says, “I pray for you everyday.”

“Fuck you,” Cobb says. “That’s your way of putting me down, you shithole.”

“It is not,” the man replies. “I pray for myself everyday.”

As the patrol continues, Cobb and Dutton discuss their response if attacked by neighbors opposed to Cobb turning their town into a racist outpost on the prairie. Cobb claimed that he and Dutton started patrolling the town because of acts of violence and harassment directed at them, though that appears to  have been imagined.

“I tell you,” Cobb says in the video, “the way it’s going, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do come attack us at some point.”

“Well, good,” Dutton says. “I’ve been meaning to get some target practice.”

“Be sure they fire the first shot,” Cobb says. “They have to fire the first shot.”

“I fire the second one,” Dutton agrees.

“Maybe the second and third,” Cobb says.

As the patrol began, Deborah Dutton did a voiceover.

“This is Mr. Cobb,” she said, “and my lover, Kynan Dutton, patrolling with sexy-ass guns.

“Stop the hate.”

It turned out to be a costly walkabout for Cobb.

Later that gray November day, Cobb and Dutton were arrested by sheriff’s deputies and charged with seven counts of terrorizing. They were held without bail in the Mercer County Jail. Cobb refused to eat, and about a week later he was taken to a state hospital for a mental health evaluation.

No word on the results.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized