Monthly Archives: February 2016



Updated Fri at 8:08pmFri 26 Feb 2016, 8:08pm

Tony Burton, who drew on his career as a prizefighter to play boxing trainer Tony “Duke” Evers in all six Rocky films, has died aged 78.

Sylvester Stallone, who stars in the franchise, led the tributes after relatives announced Burton’s death in a southern California hospital from suspected pneumonia, following a long illness.

Tony Burton filmography

  • Rocky, Rocky II, III, IV, V, Rocky Balboa
  • Assault on Precinct 13
  • Stir Crazy
  • The Shining
  • Knockout

Burton, who had been living in California for 30 years, played the trainer of Apollo Creed, the antagonist of the first two Rocky films, before switching to Rocky’s corner in the subsequent movies.

“Tony Burton who played the character of Duke brilliantly in all six Rocky movies… Rest in peace,” Stallone said on Instagram, posting a still from Rocky IV of the pair with Apollo Creed actor Carl Weathers.

“Sad news. RIP Tony Burton. His intensity and talent helped make the Rocky movies successful,” Weathers tweeted.

Burton’s younger sister Loretta “Peaches” Kelley told news portal MLive that Burton had been in and out of the hospital over a year.

His ill health prevented him from appearing in Rocky spin-off Creed, for which Stallone earned an Oscar nomination, but the character was briefly present.

“There’s a scene in the restaurant of that movie where his picture is on the wall,” Ms Kelley told MLive.

Burton, who graduated from high school in Flint in 1955, was a city-level athlete in football and baseball and won two Flint “Golden Gloves” light heavyweight titles in the 1950s.

He has spoken publicly about turning his life around with study and acting classes after being jailed at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, for robbery.

As well as the Rocky films, Burton had scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s psychological horror The Shining, John Carpenter’s action thriller Assault on Precinct 13 and Sydney Poitier comedy Stir Crazy.

Burton outlived his son, Martin, who died of a heart attack two years ago, but is survived by his wife of 36 years, Rae.




The death toll of music-world notables in 2016 continued Friday, with the announcement of the death of Lennie Baker, a longtime member of the rock-and-doo-wop band Sha Na Na. He was 69.

His nephew, David Baker, confirmed Leonard J. “Lennie” Baker died Wednesday at a Weymouth, Mass, hospital, in an online obituary and condolence page by a local funeral home, and on his Boston Marathon fundraising page.

“It is with great sorrow and a tear in my eye that I inform you that I am now running the 2016 Boston Marathon in memory of Uncle Lennie.  He developed a serious infection this week and passed away peacefully at South Shore Hospital late yesterday afternoon,” David Baker wrote.

Lennie Baker’s church, Whitman First Congregationalist Church in Whitman, Mass., also confirmed the news in a tweet Friday.

The specific cause of death was not disclosed. In 2002 Lennie Baker underwent a kidney transplant, receiving a kidney donated by his nephew.

Lennie Baker was a vocalist and saxophone player for Sha Na Na, a band with a 1950s-era look and sensibility that was popular starting in the late 1960s. Baker joined the group in 1970 and toured the world with them until he retired in 2000.

He also appeared on the Sha Na Na variety TV show (1977-1981), and in the movie Grease, singing lead on the song Blue Moon, the Rogers and Hart standard that was a chart hit from the 1978 movie. Baker, who often said it was his favorite song, performed it at Carnegie Hall during his Sha Na Na career.

During his retirement years Baker took up residence on Martha’s Vineyard and continued to play the sax and sing with a local band, The Spellbinders.

Another former Sha Na Na member, co-founder Dennis Greene, who later became a movie-studio executive and then a law professor, died in September at age 66.

Recent deaths of major music stars include: Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, country star Sonny James, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, and Denise “Vanity” Matthews.

Contributing: The Associated Press




James was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame

By February 22, 2016

Sonny James
Sonny James, known for his hit “Young Love,” has died at 87. Ed Rode/WireImage

James was born James Hugh Loden in the small farming community of Hackleburg, Alabama, and played music with his parents and older sister Thelma. The young James, who first learned to play music on a homemade instrument fashioned from a molasses bucket, eventually earned a spot performing with his family on a Muscle Shoals radio show. The family soon became a local, then regional favorite, performing throughout the South, and appearing regularly on radio shows in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

While he was still in high school, James joined the National Guard and went on to work in the family store in Hackleburg. His music career was temporarily derailed when he and his fellow Guardsmen were among the first Guard troops to arrive in Korea at the outset of the Korean conflict late in 1950.

By 1952, James was back in Alabama but soon left for Nashville and reconnected with a former roommate, musician-producer Chet Atkins. In spite of Atkins’ leadership at RCA Records, he referred James to Ken Nelson, who was producing acts for Capitol Records in Los Angeles at the time. James’ alliance with Capitol, which began with a Top Ten single in 1953, “That’s Me Without You,” would lead to an unbroken streak of 16 chart-topping releases from 1967 to 1971. The singer also joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, the year he scored his second Number One (after the hugely successful “Young Love”) “You’re the Only World I Know.” Other hits during that time included “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” “Empty Arms” and “Since I Met You Baby,” all of which had originally been hits for R&B acts, making James the first — and most successful country act — to cover such material during the turbulent Civil Rights era. During his early years with Capitol, James also played fiddle on sessions for one of the label’s bluegrass acts, Jim & Jesse.

In the early Seventies, James produced three LPs for teenager Marie Osmond, whose debut country hit, “Paper Roses,” was a Number One country (and Top Five pop) song in 1973. By the mid-Seventies, James had moved to Columbia Records and released his final Number One, “Is It Wrong (For Loving You).”

James, who was nicknamed the Southern Gentleman, also appeared in a handful of country-music-themed films, including Nashville Rebel, Las Vegas Hillbillies and Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006 by Kix Brooks and was the first country artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.





Dennis McLellan

George Kennedy, the veteran actor who built his early career playing heavies and won an Academy Award in 1968 for his supporting role as the tough Southern prison-camp convict who grew to hero-worship Paul Newman’s defiant title character in “Cool Hand Luke,” died Sunday in Boise, Idaho, of natural causes, said his grandson Cory Schenkel. He was 91.

In a more than 50-year screen career, the deep-voiced Kennedy appeared in dozens of movies, including “The Flight of the Phoenix,” “The Sons of Katie Elder,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Earthquake,” “Cahill United States Marshal,” “The Eiger Sanction,” “Death on the Nile,” and the “Airport” series of films.

In a distinct change of pace in the late `80s and `90s, he played Capt. Ed Hocken in the “Naked Gun” series of cop spoofs starring Leslie Nielsen as detective Lt. Frank Drebin.

“I had the time of my life doing it,” Kennedy told New York’s Newsday after making the first one in 1988. “It’s so funny, it was hard to shoot the movie.”

A World War II combat veteran, Kennedy spent 16 years in the Army before launching his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s. At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, he was initially typecast as the bad guy in TV westerns and in films.

He went after Joan Crawford with an ax in “Strait-Jacket,” savagely attacked Audrey Hepburn with a prosthetic hand hook in “Charade” and attempted to assassinate Gregory Peck in “Mirage.”

Then came his break-out role in “Cool Hand Luke,” the hit 1967 film starring Newman as the newcomer to the road gang at a prison work-camp.

“I was completely overwhelmed when I saw the script,” Kennedy recalled in a 2003 interview with the Tennessean newspaper. “I remember saying to my agent, ‘They’re not going to give me this role. I’m one of those third-guy-through-the-door bad guys.’”

But, he said, “I screen-tested and lucked out. The test was very, very good; no way I was not going to take it seriously.”

As Dragline, Kennedy becomes Luke’s friend and biggest booster after the smaller Luke stubbornly refuses to stay down when Dragline brutally pummels him in a prison yard boxing match.

For the movie’s famous scene in which Newman’s Luke eats 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour on a bet, Kennedy’s character serves as Luke’s trainer and “official egg peeler.”

In his review of the film, The Times’ Charles Champlin noted that “it will almost certainly do for George Kennedy what ‘Cat Ballou’ did for Lee Marvin — pay off with stardom in a long honorable hitch at lesser servitude.”

It was a beaming Kennedy who took the stage to accept the Oscar for his career-changing performance.

“Oh, I could bust,” he said at the start of his brief acceptance speech.

“Winning that was the highlight single moment of my life,” he said in the 2003 interview with the Tennessean.

The Oscar represented more than just the gold-plated centerpiece for his living-room mantel.
The day he was nominated for the award, he recalled, “my salary went up 10 times.”

For a while after “Cool Hand Luke,” Kennedy told Canada’s the Globe and Mail in 1978, “I did nothing but good guys. Now I play about 75% good guys and 25% bad guys.”
In addition to doing movies in the 1970s, Kennedy starred in two TV series: as a cop-turned-priest in “Sarge,” a 1971-72 drama; and as an old-school beat cop in “The Blue Knight,” a 1975-76 police drama.

Kennedy, who played President Harding on the 1979 mini-series “Backstairs at the White House,” also played cattle rancher Carter McKay on “Dallas” from 1988 to 1991.

He was born in New York City on Feb. 18, 1925. His mother was a member of a classical ballet dance team on the vaudeville circuit and his father was a pianist, composer and pit orchestra leader who died when Kennedy was 4.

Kennedy describes his poverty-stricken early years after his father died, including a period in which he and his mother lived in a brothel, in his 2011 book “Trust Me: A Memoir.”

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army in 1943 at 17 and served in the infantry in Europe, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Reenlisting after the war ended, he earned a commission as an officer and became part of the Armed Forces Radio Network in Frankfurt and Berlin and later in Tokyo and Korea.

His final assignment was as the military advisor for “The Phil Silvers Show,” a popular peacetime Army sitcom shot in New York and starring Silvers as the constantly scheming Sgt. Ernie Bilko.

“I was praying one of the [regular] guys wouldn’t show up, so I could stand in for him,” Kennedy recalled in a 1968 Times interview.

He wound up doing several bit parts as an MP on the series, which he later described as a “great training ground for me.”

Kennedy, who had been born with a curved spine, was hospitalized a number of times for spine problems before being retired from the Army with a partial disability. With no job prospects, he headed to Hollywood.

Within a week of meeting with a talent agent in 1959, he was cast as a bad guy on a TV western.

“If it had been the time of shorter heroes — Eddie Robinson, Alan Ladd, Bogart — I couldn’t have gotten arrested,” Kennedy said in a 1969 interview with The Times. “But it was the era of big guys. Men Like Jim Arness and Clint Walker needed someone big to beat up in their television series.”

Kennedy’s grandson, who lived with him and helped take care of him, described the actor as “just a quiet family man” who “always put his family first and was always happy to take time out to talk to fans. He never turned a fan away, just enjoyed making movies and bringing joy to other people.”

He was preceded in death by his wife, Joan Kennedy, and a son and a daughter. Besides Schenkel, he is survived by daughter Shannon Sullivan and granddaughter Taylor Kennedy.

McLellan is a former Times staff writer.

Times staff writer Jill Leovy contributed to this report.


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Hubble Sheds Light on Super-Exoplanet Atmospheres

Sky & Telescope

New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope are helping characterize the atmospheres of exotic exoplanets.

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Astronomers Pinpoint Mysterious Radio Burst

Sky & Telescope

A radio burst with the energy of a hundred million Suns has finally been placed on the cosmic map, enabling scientists to investigate the origin of these mysterious bursts.

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WFIRST: Next Decade’s Space Telescope

Sky & Telescope

NASA is commencing work on the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the successor to the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 26 – March 5

Sky & Telescope

After dinnertime at this time of year, four carnivore constellations stand upright in a row from the northeast to south. And catch Jupiter’s busy Saturday night.

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March’s Total Solar Eclipse in Indonesia

Sky & Telescope

On March 9th, a total solar eclipse will cross parts of Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and the Pacific.

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Frightful Nights Under the Stars

Sky & Telescope

The lure of dark skies often takes us to unfamiliar places where nocturnal animals and encounters with strangers can ignite our primal fears.

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S&T‘s Astronomy Podcast for March 2016
Sky & Telescope
After months of excitement in the predawn sky, the action is shifting to the evening — where Jupiter rises early and the stars of Orion anchor an array of celestial sights.

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By Hatewatch Staff:

SPLC Klan cases to be featured in Investigation Discovery series

A new, three-part series on the Investigation Discovery network – “Hate in America” – will take an in-depth look at the SPLC’s fight against violent extremists.

The first episode, premiering at 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, Feb. 29, explores some of the SPLC’s most riveting court cases, including the Michael Donald lawsuit that shut down the United Klans of America.

In 1981, Donald, 19, was abducted on the streets of Mobile, Alabama, by Klansmen who cut his throat and hung his body from a tree in a residential neighborhood. Using an innovative legal strategy, SPLC founder Morris Dees proved in court that a Klan conspiracy was behind the murder and won a historic $7 million verdict against the United Klans on behalf of Donald’s mother.

The verdict marked the end of the United Klans, the same group that had bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls, during the civil rights movement.

The first episode of “Hate in America” also will delve into the SPLC’s harrowing case against the former Klan leader Glenn Miller, who formed a large Klan militia in North Carolina that obtained an arsenal of lethal weapons from sympathizers in the military. The suit shut down Miller’s operation, and he was sent to prison after plotting to assassinate Dees. The notorious neo-Nazi made headlines in 2014 when he murdered three people at Jewish facilities in Kansas.

The two final episodes of “Hate in America” will air later in 2016 on dates to be determined. They will examine the rise of lone-wolf terrorists, including the white supremacist who killed nine African Americans in Charleston last summer, and an attempt by racists to start a white supremacist enclave in Montana.

The series is hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Tony Harris.

It will be available online at DiscoveryGO and on ID’s website starting March 1.


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The United Nations’ (UN) International Mother Language Day annually celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide on February 21. It also remembers events such as the killing of four students on February 21, 1952, because they campaigned to officially use their mother language, Bengali, in Bangladesh.

The fight for language diversity has a history, especially in countries such as Bangladesh.

What Do People Do?

On International Mother Language Day the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN agencies participate in events that promote linguistic and cultural diversity. They also encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language. Governments and non-governmental organizations may use the day to announce policies to encourage language learning and support.

In Bangladesh, February 21 is the anniversary of a pivotal day in the country’s history. People lay flowers at a Shaheed Minar (martyr’s monument). They also: purchase glass bangles for themselves or female relatives; eat a festive meal and organize parties; and award prizes or host literary competitions. It is a time to celebrate Bangladesh’s culture and the Bengali language.

The Linguapax Institute, in Barcelona, Spain, aims to preserve and promote linguistic diversity globally. The institute presents the Linguapax Prize on International Mother Language Day each year. The prize is for those who have made outstanding work in linguistic diversity or multilingual education.

Public Life

International Mother Language Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh, where it is also known as Shohid Dibôsh, or Shaheed Day. It is a global observance but not a public holiday in other parts of the world.


At the partition of India in 1947, the Bengal province was divided according to the predominant religions of the inhabitants. The western part became part of India and the eastern part became a province of Pakistan known as East Bengal and later East Pakistan. However, there was economic, cultural and lingual friction between East and West Pakistan.

These tensions were apparent in 1948 when Pakistan’s government declared that Urdu was the sole national language. This sparked protests amongst the Bengali-speaking majority in East Pakistan. The government outlawed the protests but on February 21, 1952, students at the University of Dhaka and other activists organized a protest. Later that day, the police opened fire at the demonstrators and killed four students. These students’ deaths in fighting for the right to use their mother language are now remembered on International Mother Language Day.

The unrest continued as Bengali speakers campaigned for the right to use their mother language. Bengali became an official language in Pakistan on February 29, 1956. Following the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh became an independent country with Bengali as its official language.

On November 17, 1999, UNESCO proclaimed February 21 to be International Mother Language Day and it was first observed on February 21, 2000. Each year the celebrations around International Mother Language Day concentrate on a particular theme.


The Shaheed Minar (martyr’s monument) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, pays homage to the four demonstrators killed in 1952. There have been three versions of the monument. The first version was built on February 22-23 in 1952 but the police and army destroyed it within a few days. Construction on the second version started in November 1957, but the introduction of martial law stopped construction work and it was destroyed during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

The third version of the Shaheed Minar was built to similar plans as the second version. It consists of four standing marble frames and a larger double marble frame with a slanted top portion. The frames are constructed from marble and stand on a stage, which is raised about four meters (14 feet) above the ground. The four frames represent the four men who died on February 21, 1952, and the double frame represents their mothers and country. Replicas of the Shaheed Minar have been constructed worldwide where people from Bangladesh have settled, particularly in London and Oldham in the United Kingdom.

An International Mother Language Day monument was erected at Ashfield Park in Sydney, Australia, on February 19, 2006.  It consists of a slab of slate mounted vertically on a raised platform. There are stylized images of the Shaheed Minar and the globe on the face of the stone. There are also the words “we will remember the martyrs of 21st February” in English and Bengali and words in five alphabets to represent mother languages on five continents where people live.

2016 Theme: “Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes”

International Mother Language Day Observances


Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type Where it is Observed
Sun Feb 21 2010 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Mon Feb 21 2011 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Tue Feb 21 2012 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Thu Feb 21 2013 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Fri Feb 21 2014 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sat Feb 21 2015 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sun Feb 21 2016 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Tue Feb 21 2017 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Wed Feb 21 2018 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Thu Feb 21 2019 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Fri Feb 21 2020 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance

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She was a compelling and unforgettable woman who made a lasting legacy on feminism.

She was “Sister Outsider”, always evolving, commanding and creating an aura that set her apart from all the feminists of her era.

She was Audre Geraldine Lorde, and she was one of a kind.

Here is her story.


Audre Geraldine Lorde (b. February 18, 1934 – d. November 17, 1992), radical feminist, poet, writer, civil rights activist. Among mid- to late-twentieth-century writers, few so completely challenged attempts at facile categorization as did Audre Lorde. Her challenge took the interesting and powerful form of embracing all the categories into which she herself fit or could be made to fit. “I am a Black lesbian feminist poet,” she said, “and I am your sister.”

Audre Lorde was born in Harlem. Her parents, Frederic Byron and Linda Bellmar Lord, had come to New York from their home country of Grenada and for many years firmly believed that they would one day go home. When, during the Great Depression, they realized that they would never go back, a permanent sorrow entered their household. Their nostalgia for the country of their birth provided the background of Ms. Lorde’s childhood. For this young New York girl, there was an island in the West Indies—an island she had never seen—that she was expected to think of as home.

One of Ms. Lorde’s books, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), presents a clear picture of her early life. A fictionalized biography—or biomythography, as she called it—the work graphically retells racist incidents the author suffered as a child. It also describes with wonder her discovery of language and its power. At an early age, she began to use the latter as a tool to resist and even manipulate racist attitudes.

The strictness of her parent’s home, along with her own sense of herself as an outsider, led Ms. Lorde into rebellion as a teenager. She sought out others who felt as she did, and she found them at Hunter College High School. One such companion, later so important, was the poet Diane Di Prima. After graduation from high school, Ms. Lorde moved to her own apartment and began to support herself. The jobs she was able to find were low-paying and unsatisfying. She endured great loneliness because of her inability to find a world in which she felt at home. It was during this time that she had her first lesbian affair, in Connecticutt, while she was working in a factory.

Another affair with a woman, in Mexico in 1954, led Ms. Lorde into the Greenwich Village :gay girl” scene. It was the closest she had come to a sense of belonging, and she found it in a sea of almost entirely White faces. This irony, and the conflict it aroused in her, provoked years of thinking, writing, and feeling. At this time, she also went to college and began to work as a librarian, and she wrote poetry.

The poetry led Ms. Lorde, for a time, to involvement with the Harlem Writers Guild. Its members, including Langston Hughes, were the vanguard of a growing movement in Black American literature. Here was another possible home for the aspiring young writer. Mr. Hughes himself showed an interest in her work. Yet, according to Ms. Lorde, the homophobia of the Guild members alienated her once again.

In 1959 Ms. Lorde received her BA from Hunter College. In 1960, she was awarded an MLS from Columbia University’s School of Library Science. For a number of years, Ms. Lorde wrote poetry and worked as a librarian, eventually becoming head librarian at the Town School in New York. She also married and had two children. The marriage and its circumstances are not recorded in Ms. Lorde’s writing and therefore little is know of it. Then, in 1968, the Poet’s Press scheduled The First Cities, her first book of poetry, for publication. Her old high school friend, Diane Di Prima, was instrumental in its publication. At about the same time, Ms. Lorde was invited to Tougaloo College, in Mississippi, to be poet-in-residence.

Ms. Lorde was at Tougaloo for only six weeks, but during that time her life changed suddenly and radically. The public had begun to recognize her work; she was teaching poetry at an historically black institution, an empowering experience she later described with great emotion in her poem “Blackstudies”; and she met and initiated a romance with Frances Clayton, the woman with whom she would share the rest of her life.

Upon her return to New York City, Ms. Lorde continued teaching. She gave courses in writing at City College and on racism at Lehman College and John Jay College. Her second book of poetry, Cables to Rage, was published in 1970. In 1971, she read publicly for the first time a lesbian love poem. The same poem was published later in Ms. It was not, however, included in her next volume of poetry, From a Land Where Other People Live, having been rejected by the editor of that volume. In 1917, the book was nominated for a National Book award, bringing Ms. Lorde greater recognition for her work and, after two more publications with small presses, a contract with W.W. Norton.

Norton brought out Coal (1976), a collection of new poems and poems selected from her first two, hard-to-find books, and emblazoned with a jacket blurb written by Adrienne Rich, at that time one of Norton’s most prominent poets. The association between Ms. Lorde and Ms. Rich continued over the years. The Black Unicorn, widely considered Ms. Lorde’s most important work, appeared in 1978. In the summer of 1981, Ms. Rich published an interview with Ms. Lorde in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, thereby introducing her to a large White readership.

The Black Unicorn was probably Ms. Lorde’s most successful poetic attempt to merge her different worlds. In it she used the image of the unicorn (which she believed Europeans took from the African agricultural goddess ChiWara, a one-horned antelope) to explore the influences of African and European cultures upon each other. She plumed the sexual significances of the symbol, pointing out how the European myth divides meaning into the masculine, the phallic horn, and the feminine, the pale virgin who alone can tame the animal. In contrast, African culture combines those meanings to emphasize the power of growth.

With the appearance of The Black Unicorn, Ms. Lorde became an acknowledged, widely reviewed poet. Critical articles began to be written about her work. her prose, too, though published by small presses, began to command attention and respect. Published in 1982, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name was reviewed in the New York Times. A different audience grew out of what would become her most famous and well-known work, a collection of essays entitled Sister Outsider (1984). It was widely adopted in Women’s Studies courses and quickly achieved the status of a feminist classic.

During the 1970s, Ms. Lorde traveled in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Russia, In 1980, her autobiographical work The Cancer Journals was published. In it, she described her feelings during and after her affliction with breast cancer. The experience had added yet one more identity to her long list. In another prose work, A Burst of Light (1988), she recounted her decision not to undergo further surgery after a return of the disease and her experience with alternative methods of treatment. Despite her illness, Ms. Lorde traveled extensively, teaching and giving readings. She died November 17, 1992.

The stubborn reality of her own experiences and her own feelings served as the basis of Ms. Lorde’s worldview. When political oversimplification collided with her personal affections and loyalties, she saw a reason to challenge the politics, as in her essay “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response.” In that work, she explores among other issues, the meaning of being a lesbian and a mother in a culture that often refuses to accept that combination.

Ms. Lorde’s focus as a writer and as a person was to strive for unity by embracing diversity. She challenged all political and social actions that arbitrarily separate one individual from another, that exclude and ostracize. She did this by fervently defending the individual’s right to define herself and her possibilities.  In her poetry she created a world of eroticism, sensuality, and symbolism that, ultimately, aspired to the same goal.


Homans, Maragret. “”Lorde, Audre Grealdine.” Black Women in America, Oxford University Press, 2005, pgs. 299- 301.

Biographical film


When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
Your silence will not protect you.
I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.
When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.
Revolution is not a onetime event.
Our visions begin with our desires.
Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

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She was flamboyant, out-spoken and always told the truth.

Today, she is so unknown to many who have never had the joy of knowing of this most beautiful and unique woman. This past February 11, 2016 would have been Ms. Kennedy’s 100th birthday.

Florynce Kennedy.

This is her story.


Florynce Kennedy (b. February 11, 1916 – d. December 21, 2000), attorney, activist. In her autobiography Color Me Flo, Florynce Rae Kennedy poked fun at herself for having “an acute case of word diarrhea.” Not one to hold her tongue, Ms. Kennedy built a public career out of this condition, becoming a celebrity activist known for her sardonic political humor and biting social commentary.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, the second of Wiley and Zella Kennedy’s five daughters, “Flo” grew up in a two-parent household. Ms. Kennedy’s mother was a stay-at-home mom before the Depression, but not the typical maternal figure. Both she and her husband made their children’s lives uncommon. The Kennedy children were taught to value themselves and to give authority figures, black or white, only the respect they earned. The Kennedy girls were precious to, and protected by, a father who had no reservations about showing that he would back up what he said. On one occasion he confronted the Ku Klux Klan with his gun on the family’s front porch. The Kennedy girl’s school principal received similar treatment from their father as he gave the principal a lesson regarding the importance of their safety and sanctity. A former Pullman porter, Wiley Kennedy was a self-employed taxi driver who allowed the girls to drive his car, a rare source of social capital for teens from any working-class family in the 1930s. His indulgence and uncompromising protection characterized the Kennedy girls’ socialization, an uncommon childhood which may have set the tone for Florynce’s societal defiance.

After graduating at the top of her class from Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Ms. Kennedy’s adult life consisted of various jobs from owning a hat store to singinh on the radio. However, all of Ms. Kennedy’s stints of employment were a part of what she would later classify as “good times.” Ms. Kennedy’s “good times” had somber moments, as when ger mother had a mastectomy in 1938, and Ms. Kennedy herself faced serious illness, hospitalization, and a near-death experience. By 1942 Ms. Kennedy’s mother had died of cancer and Florynce and her two oldest sisters moved to New York City.

Ms. Kennedy held both public and civic assignments during the first few years of her residence in Harlem before pursuing a pre-law major at Columbia University Undergraduate. When she decided to apply to Columbia Law School, Ms. Kennedy was refused admission based on her gender, not her race. She nonetheless graduated with a law degree from Columbia in 1951, the dean having been warned that “more cynical” civil rights activists might not have been able to appreciate the differences between race and sex discrimination.

From the beginning of her career as an attorney, similar shrewd and tactical pressures marked M.s Kennedy’s practice of negligence law. As a trial lawyer, Ms. Kennedy mocked judicious behavior and safe alliances. She represented the civil rights leader H. Rap Brown as well as the estates of the recording artists Billie Holliday and Charlie Parker. She married a Welsh science fiction writer in 1957, but he died not long after. A White colleague embezzled from her and then disappeared. She found it difficult to meet the rent on her law office. Struggling, she began to wonder whether law was really her field.

In 1967, while upstaging the other radicals at a  Montreal antiwar convention, Ms. Kennedy serendipitously discovered an answer. She had called attention to herself by grabbing the microphone and protesting over Bobby Seale not being allowed to speak out about racism. Ms. Kennedy received an invitation to speak in Washington for a fee of $250 plus expenses.

So began Ms. Kennedy’s public career of poking fun at power.

During the 1970s, Ms. Kennedy’s satirical wit and quick tongue convinced her frequent lecture circuit partner, Gloria Steinem, that the latter must always speak first at their college campus engagements. Ms. Steinem confessed that she was definitely anticlimactic in the dreaded event that she had to follow Flo.

Ms. Kennedy’s willingness to be dismissed or criticized because of her outrageous dress (she wore pink sunglasses and a cowboy hat as a sartorial expression of her unconventional personality) and unapologetic vulgarity made her both an easy target and a popular lecture circuit speaker. Her fifty years of political activism benefitted poverty, feminist, and civil rights causes. Ms. Kennedy was also an advocate for prostitutes, ethnic minorities, and gay rights. Her convictions demonstrated an individual accountability and personal integrity. She lived a rebellious life shaped by doing what she described as “only as much as I was able to do in order to satisfy myself.”

She died at eighty-four years of age on a Thursday in her Manhattan apartment, December 21, 2000.


Kennedy, Flo. Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Autobiography featuring a personal memoir of her activism in several social revolutions.

Martin, Douglas. “Flo Kennedy, Feminist, Civil Rights Advocate and Flamboyant Gadfly, Dies at 84,” New York Times, 23 December 2000. Published obituary and career overview.

Thompson, Kathleen. “Kennedy, Flo.” In Black Women In America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hine. Brooklyn: Carlson, 1993: 676-677


Adkins, LaTrese Evette. Kennedy, Florynce. Black Women In America: Second Edition, Volume 2. Oxford University Press, 2005, pgs. 200-202.


“I am for any movement that is off its ass.”

“Don’t agonize, organize.”

“You may not win the war…but you let them know that you are fighting a battle. I always say, if you spit on someone at a cocktail party you’re not trying to drown them; you just want to let them know you don’t like them.”

“Everybody’s scared for their ass. There aren’t too many people ready to die for racism. They’ll kill for racism, but they won’t die for racism.”

“Fashion, style, language are the stuff of which societal reins on the oppressed are made. Grow a beard, wear a dashiki, say ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’ at the wrong time or place and you can get on the open-season-for-niggerizing list.”

“My main message is that we have a pathologically, institutionally racist, sexist, classist society. And that niggerizing techniques that are used don’t only damage Black people, but they also damage women, gay people, ex-prison inmates, prostitutes, children, old people, handicapped people [and] Native Americans. And that if we can begin to analyze the pathology of oppression…we would learn a lot about how to deal with it.”

“What [White] people don’t want to admit is that they are receivers of stolen property, and being receivers of stolen property, they should not be surprised that they are not loved.”

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

“There is no need for any legislation on abortion just as there is no need for legislation on an appendectomy.”

“Church controls the license to fuck. It’s called marriage.”

“I don’t believe in marriage, horizontal romance or religion, church, and/or the Bible; I love the hiccups, words and fighting.”

“Being a mother is a noble status, right? So why does it change when you put ‘unwed’ or ‘welfare’ in front of it?”

“Black Power may be the only hope America has.”

“I could understand feminism better because of the discrimination against Black people.”

“[Black women] want to see [White] feminists come in where women are involved in the Black community, whether it is about a feminist issue or not. See that’s what they can understand and see getting together with.”

“Don’t try to recruit Black women into the women’s movement on the basis of sexism of the Black male. Recruit Black women by attacking the racism of White females.”

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Pulitzer Prize winner and To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee’s death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl’s experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

Lee’s family issued a statement Friday morning saying that Lee “passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing.”

Family spokesman Hank Conner, Lee’s nephew, said:

“This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

The family says that as Lee had requested, a private funeral service will be held.

CreditDonald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

Lee made headlines last year, on the news that a companion to her beloved novel would be coming out some 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960. When that book, Go Set a Watchman, was published last summer, it set off debates about the author’s health and how involved she had been in the project.

An Alabama native, Lee moved to New York City in 1948 with the dream of being a writer. For about eight years, she worked as an airline reservationist at Eastern Airlines.

As NPR reported last summer:

“Lee’s fortunes began to improve at the end of 1956 when her friends Michael and Joy Williams Brown gave Nelle, as those close to Lee call her, a generous Christmas gift: enough money to spend a year writing. That’s when she completed the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman. The novel helped her find an agent, who got her signed to the publisher J.B. Lippincott. But Go Set a Watchman was never released. Instead, Lee’s editor urged her to expand on the flashback passages set during Scout’s childhood. Lee spent more than two years writing and rewriting the novel that became known as To Kill a Mockingbird.”

When it was published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird found immediate success. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year, and the novel inspired a film adaptation that came out in 1962 starring Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

That film was also a smashing success, garnering numerous Academy Award nominations and several wins.

Lee was famous for avoiding the public eye — one of the last extensive interviews she gave took place in 1964, when she spoke to New York radio station WQXR. Here’s some of what she said:

“Well, my objectives are very limited. I think I want to do the best I can with the talent that God gave me, I suppose. I would like to be the chronicler of something that I think is going down the drain very swiftly, and that is small-town, middle-class Southern life. There is something universal in it. Something decent to be said for it, and something to lament, once it goes, in its passing. In other words, all I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”

In that same conversation, Lee also spoke of how she had attended law school, but “I didn’t graduate. I left the university one semester before I’d have gotten my degree.”

In 2007, Lee was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was honored with a National Medal of Arts in 2010.

Here’s how news website describes Lee’s final years:

“Harper Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, recovered and resumed her life in the hometown where she spent many of her 89 years. A guardedly private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages theatrical productions of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Lee returned to Monroeville for good once her sister Alice became ill and needed help. She’d eat breakfast each morning at the same fast-food place, and could later be seen picking up Alice from the law firm founded by their father.”

President and Mrs. Obama released this statement Friday in memory of Lee:

“‘Atticus, he was real nice.’

“‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’

“When Harper Lee sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn’t seeking awards or fame. She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story about life as she saw it.

“But what that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

“Ms. Lee changed America for the better. And there is no higher tribute we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story — to our students, to our neighbors, and to our children — and to constantly try, in our own lives, to finally see each other.”




Umberto Eco is dead: Long live Umberto Eco

Jealous novelists criticised his novels, but readers around the globe devoured his dazzling brilliance.

21 Feb 2016 09:33 GMT |

Italian writer Umberto Eco [AP]
Italian writer Umberto Eco [AP]

About the Author

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.


The news of the death of someone like Umberto Eco hits you like a thunderbolt – when you least expect it, and you don’t know what hit you. It leaves you blank, suddenly emptied, eerily silent. What does that even mean? “Umberto Eco, 84, best-selling academic who navigated two worlds, dies.”

I have had that feeling before – three or four times I think: when my most immediate teachers George Makdisi and Philip Rieff died, and then when Edward Said died, and then when Ingmar Bergman died while I was, in fact, in Sweden.

You stare into the world, but for a moment you don’t see anything. It is as if the light in your eyes is gone. You cannot hear anything. It is as if your life has been suddenly silenced.

Colombia declares three days of mourning for Marquez

A towering presence

I met Eco in the late 1980s, or maybe in the early 1990s – I cannot remember now – soon after I had joined Columbia and he had come there by the invitation of our Casa Italiana (Italian Academy) to deliver a lecture series. I had read him long before and I read him long after.

Eco had found his gradual, systematic, and increasingly towering presence in the scholarly world first and foremost as an exquisite semiotician and soon after that, as a hermeneutician.

With two particular books, Open Work (1962) and Limits of Interpretation (1990), he had opened and delimited the field of hermeneutics to such a wondrous humanistic spectrum no one ever before or after could imagine.

ALSO READ: Marquez and the magic of his realism 

His fame, however, suddenly became wildly global with the publication of his first novel, The Name of the Rose (1980), which was later turned into a movie starring Sean Connery in the lead role of William of Baskerville.

His prose was replete with the vertiginous wit of a polyglot thriving at intertexuality and virtuoso performance of his astounding erudition.

The Name of the Rose is a study in semiotics, hermeneutics, biblical exegesis, and medieval philosophy cast ingeniously as a murder mystery.

He would write a few other novels, and his sublime wit and exquisite sense of humour were for many years on display when he wrote regular columns in Italian newspapers. His prose was replete with the vertiginous wit of a polyglot thriving at intertextuality and virtuoso performance of his astounding erudition.

Flying like Peter Pan

In his writing, he flew with the ease and playfulness of Peter Pan from medieval aesthetics to literary criticism, semiotics, hermeneutics, media and cultural studies, and then diving with all his literary might for a quick column in a newspaper before soaring into a dazzlingly brilliant novel that would take the world by a storm.

No one would know what he had up his sleeve. Jealous novelists like Salman Rushdie did not like him; professional reviewers criticised his novels. But readers around the globe devoured his dazzling brilliance.

Soon after 9/11, when his fellow Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci was suddenly afflicted and diagnosed with a nasty case of the racist disease of Islamophobia and began spewing hatred of unfathomable depth and ferocity against Muslims, Eco wrote a gentle but dismantling piece against her without even mentioning her name, insisting on placing the civilised discourse on track of his own exemplary humanism.

Italian author Umberto Eco [EPA]

A few years ago, while I was in Milan, I was invited to the University of Bologna where he was the president of the Graduate School for the Study of the Humanities. I went to Bologna happily hoping I might get to see him. I could not.

He was too ill to attend my talk, but he had asked for a copy of my World of Persian Literary Humanism which had just been published. I left a copy for him with mutual friends and colleagues with a note of humility and gratitude written for him on the first page.

The mind of the sublime

I spent that day in Bologna with friends and colleagues, walking around Piazza Maggiore, visiting San Petronio Basilica, sitting down for a quick bite and a coffee, imagining Eco inhabiting that space. Right in front of the City Hall, I remember there was a demonstration against a proposed plan to privatise water resources.

ALSO READ: Khalil Gibran for a new generation

For Eco, aesthetics, politics, and hermeneutics dwelled somewhere between the heart of the mundane and the mind of the sublime.

All my students know my enduring indebtedness to his theories of hermeneutics and semiotics, to his happy, hopeful, joyous swinging from Homer to Mickey Mouse. 

One particular gem among his myriad of ideas is his famous triangular theory of interpretation: located somewhere among the intention of the author, the intention of the reader, and the intention of the text.

The name Umberto, long before he passed away, had transcended his mortal coil and became a citation informing his texts.

The intention of the author Umberto Eco became the voice resonating in the intention of his texts: varied, vivacious, brilliant, dizzying.

All that now remains is the enduring gaze and grace of those text awaiting any and all those fortunate enough to find their lost way into the labyrinth of his magnificent, enabling, beautiful thoughts. 

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera



Saturday, February 13, 2016, 8:42 PM
Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists.
Sarah Glovervia YouTube

Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists.

Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has died. He was 75.

Moore, known as a trailblazing and dogged reporter as well as a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists, helped found local and national organizations that advocate for black journalists.

Moore’s wife, Linda Wright Moore, said he died Friday night at their home in suburban Philadelphia after battling health issues for years.

The Philadelphia native served as an Army medic before becoming a copy clerk at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1962. He went on to become the first black reporter at the paper, working as an investigative reporter, editorial board member and columnist.

Moore was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his investigation of inmates at Fairvew State Hospital and was also a founder of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and later, the National Association of Black Journalists.

But his wife said he was most proud of a high school minority journalism program he started that has given scores of aspiring journalists an introduction to the craft.

“He was very smart and thoughtful, but at the same time, he was a regular guy,” she said. “His passion was helping and supporting and encouraging young journalists.”

Sarah Glover, president of the NABJ, said she was “heartbroken” by the passing of a man she called a longtime mentor and friend who had had an effect on the careers of hundreds of members of the organization.

“Moore left us a wonderful legacy as a humanitarian, truth seeker, fighter for equal opportunity and trailblazer who opened doors for countless journalists, especially those of color,” she said.

Moore is survived by his wife; his daughter, Mariah; his son, Acel Jr.; his sister, Geraldine Fisher; and his twin brother, Michael Moore.

WIth News Wire Services


Remembering NABJ Co-Founder Acel Moore

NPR’s Michel Martin remembers journalist Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner who helped found the National Association of Black Journalists.


We’d like take a minute now to tell you about an important figure in American journalism. Acel Moore, a longtime editor, reporter and columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, died last night at the age of 75 at his home outside Philadelphia. His death was first reported by the National Association of Black Journalists, an organization he helped found. Moore received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. His biggest impact though might have been as a mentor to hundreds of journalists, both informally and with programs to introduce people of diverse backgrounds to journalism careers. When we reached her today, Acel Moore’s widow, Linda Wright Moore, remembered his intelligence, humor and especially his passion for helping young people. We offer our condolences and appreciation to his family.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.




Ms. Raiola attracted a cult following as a formidable but lovable reality TV star. By Katie Rogers 20160221005355 –>

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives.”

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images/File 2013

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives” and “Couples Therapy.”

NEW YORK — Angela Raiola, the formidable but lovable reality TV star known as “Big Ang” who attracted a cult following as the most visible cast member of VH1’s “Mob Wives,” died early Thursday in New York. She was 55.

Ms. Raiola died of complications of cancer in a New York hospital after she contracted pneumonia, Jennifer Graziano, the show’s creator and executive producer, said in an interview.

Big Ang, whose nickname stemmed from her larger-than-life personality (and her apparent fondness for plastic surgery), was a niece of Salvatore Lombardi, known as Sally Dogs, of the Genovese crime family. She had been open not only about her illness, but also about her past struggles, including a felony drug conviction. Those problems were spun into significant story lines for the VH1 show.

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives” and “Couples Therapy,” also on VH1. The cameras rolled as she detailed her discovery of Stage 2 throat cancer and, later, the removal of a lemon-size tumor from her throat. She also documented a medical visit in which a doctor told her she had to have a biopsy on her lung. A longtime smoker, Ms. Raiola was frank about her difficulty kicking the habit.

Ms. Raiola discussed her condition at length in an appearance on the “Dr. Oz” show broadcast Tuesday, in which she revealed that she had Stage 4 lung and brain cancer. She said that doctors were positive smoking had caused the lung cancer.

“I was smoking for 40 years,” she said in the interview. “I think whoever smokes should quit, and if they didn’t start, don’t start.”

Ms. Raiola leaves her husband, Neil Murphy, two children, and six grandchildren.

“Mob Wives” had its premiere in 2011, and the show offered a rare glimpse inside the lives of women tied to the mafia — a sisterhood whose group hierarchy is determined by each woman’s ability to remain silent about the actions of their husbands, fathers, or sons, whose involvement in “the lifestyle” invariably resulted in prison time.

On the show, respect is rigidly defined, and it is easy for the ladies to run afoul of each another — minuscule shifts in allegiances could result in tense, expletive-filled showdowns and violent rants. The feuds often carried over into Twitter, helping to ensure a ratings hit for the network and side businesses, which included Big Ang Wines, for the women.

But it was Ms. Raiola’s raspy voice; tall, buxom appearance (she was said to stand 5 feet 10 inches); and ability to add comic relief and common sense to tense situations that quickly made her a fan favorite. Big Ang had life experience and had seen her share of wiseguys. Catfights, she said, were not her forte.

“I’m in my 50s; they are in [their] 30s,” she said of the other wives. “I’m going to teach them manners.”

On Thursday, Michael Cilnis, a spokesman for VH1, released a statement, which said, “Angela Raiola was an incredibly strong, one-of-a-kind woman who taught us all to enjoy life to the fullest.”

The attention earned her a short-lived spinoff on VH1 called “Big Ang,” which followed her marriage and her life as a bartender at the Staten Island bar the Drunken Monkey. The bar attracted attention in 2014, when a patron died after he was punched outside the establishment.

Last March, the bar was shut down after a New York State Liquor Authority investigation found that Ms. Raiola, who did not hold the bar’s liquor license, was acting as owner and operator of the business, The Staten Island Advance reported. Ms. Raiola’s past felony conviction prohibited her from owning a bar. In a recent episode of “Mob Wives,” she is seen meeting with a lawyer in an effort to have her rights restored.

Graziano, the show’s producer, said that Ms. Raiola’s status as a fan favorite extended to the show’s cast and crew. She said Big Ang, whom she described as “electric,” loved to cook and play host to her loved ones. Her children and grandchildren were the most important people in her life, she said.

“She would feed the entire cast and crew,” Graziano said, adding that Ms. Raiola loved “any, any excuse for a party.”




February 19, 2016 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Matthews in the 1980s as singer Vanity.

By Jesse J. Holland

Associated Press

Denise Matthews, a Canadian-born Prince protege who renounced her sexy stage persona known as Vanity to become a Christian minister, has died. She was 57.

The singer and actress died Monday at a hospital in Fremont, Calif., said Gisela Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Washington Hospital Health Care System. Hernandez did not give a cause of death.

Matthews’ sister Renay said the death was from complications over longstanding kidney issues.

Denise Matthews

Denise Matthews

She said Denise Matthews was happy in recent years. “She loved her time in the ‘80s, but I think she loved her recent time more, because she had been at peace,” Renay Matthews said.

A native of Niagara Falls, Ont., Denise Matthews got her start in beauty pageants and modelling. She rocketed to stardom through her association with Prince and fronting the ‘80s girl group Vanity 6, which had the hit “Nasty Girl.”

During her time in music, Vanity released four albums with Motown and Warner Brothers and was known for her sultry appearance and sexually themed music. She also appeared in films in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, including “The Last Dragon,” “52 Pick-Up” and “Action Jackson.”

“When she walked into the room everyone knew she was something very special,” Craig R. Baxley, who directed “Action Jackson,” told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.

“She was gorgeous, smart and sassy, by sassy I mean she was a free spirit, she was fresh and independent. She had such a presence without saying a word. With Sharon Stone and Vanity on set most of the crew loved every minute of it.”

Matthews’ health took a turn for the worse in 1992 and she was hospitalized for kidney failure, which she attributed to cocaine and other drug use. She detailed her life in her 1999 autobiography, “Blame It On Vanity.”

“I was sick inside. I was a crack cocaine addict and didn’t even know how to wake up in the morning without some smoke,” she said in an Associated Press story in ‘99.

She renounced her Hollywood lifestyle and became a Christian minister. She married former Oakland Raider Anthony Smith in 1995 and they divorced the next year.

On a GoFundMe page aimed at helping her pay her medical bills, Matthews said four months ago she had gone through 23 surgeries and was on dialysis three times a week. She said she was also diagnosed with sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, a rare benign cause of small bowel obstruction.

Matthews said she had no regrets about leaving her celebrity lifestyle behind.

“When I was Vanity, it was all about me,” she said in 1999. “But when I’m preaching the word of God, it’s Jesus Christ speaking through me. I don’t want people to know who I was back then, but the new creature that God has made me.”

Musicians around the world expressed sorrow at Matthews’ death.

Prince, who was touring in Australia, dedicated several songs to Matthews during a show, according to the Herald Sun newspaper. They “used to love each other deeply,” Prince said, according to the newspaper. “She loved me for the artist I was. I loved her for the artist she was trying to be.”

Berry Gordy, who served as executive producer for “The Last Dragon,” called Matthews “a talented natural beauty, inside and out.”

“I just cannot believe Vanity is gone,” Gordy said. “She was such a vibrant human being.”

“Miss you dearly. U are in his arms now, no pain,” tweeted drummer Sheila E., who also worked with Prince.

Rapper MC Hammer tweeted that he had just attended church with Matthews on Saturday.

“Vanity left church after giving a beautiful testimony of appreciation for her Pastors & Thanks to her saviour Jesus, I was there,” he tweeted. “I was looking for her Sunday and the announcement came that she fell ill during the night.”

Prince had set up Vanity 6 and made Matthews the lead singer. He also wrote and produced “Nasty Girl” for their self-titled 1982 album and took the group on tour with him.

Model-actress Devin DeVasquez, who was also managed by Prince’s people at the start of her career, told The Canadian Press she and Matthews “were all in that circle of Prince’s girls, so to speak.”

The Canadian Press contributed to this report


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World Day of Social Justice

The United Nations’ (UN) World Day of Social Justice is annually observed on February 20 to encourage people to look at how social justice affects poverty eradication. It also focuses on the goal of achieving full employment and support for social integration.

The World Summit for Social Development, which promoted social justice, was held in Copenhagen (pictured above) in 1995.

What Do People Do?

Many organizations, including the UN and the International Labour Office, make statements on the importance of social justice for people. Many organizations also present plans for greater social justice by tackling poverty, social and economic exclusion and unemployment. Trade unions and campaign groups are invited to call on their members and supporters to mark the day. The Russian General Confederation of Trade Unions declared that the common slogan would be “Social Justice and Decent Life for All!”.

Schools, colleges and universities may prepare special activities for the day or plan a week of events around a theme related to poverty, social and economic exclusion or unemployment. Different media, including radio and television stations, newspapers and Internet sites, may give attention to the issues around the World Day of Social Justice.

It is hoped that particular coverage is given to the links between the illicit trade in diamonds and armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, and the importance of the International Criminal Court. This is an independent court that conducts trials of people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Public Life

The World Day of Social Justice is a global observance and not a public holiday.


The World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995 and resulted in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. At this summit, more than 100 political leaders pledged to make the conquest of poverty and full employment, as well as stable, safe and just societies, their overriding objectives. They also agreed on the need to put people at the center of development plans.

Nearly 10 years later, the UN’s member states reviewed the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action when they gathered at a session of the Commission for Social Development in New York in February 2005. They also agreed to commit to advance social development. On November 26, 2007, the UN General Assembly named February 20 as the annual World Day of Social Justice. The day was scheduled to be first observed in 2009.

2016 Theme: “A Just Transition – environmentally sustainable economies and societies”

World Day of Social Justice Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type Where it is Observed
Sat Feb 20 2010 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Sun Feb 20 2011 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Mon Feb 20 2012 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Wed Feb 20 2013 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Thu Feb 20 2014 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Fri Feb 20 2015 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Sat Feb 20 2016 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Mon Feb 20 2017 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Tue Feb 20 2018 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Wed Feb 20 2019 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Thu Feb 20 2020 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance

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New X-ray Observatory Takes to the Skies

Sky & Telescope

Japan’s newest X-ray satellite, Hitomi (formerly Astro-H), promises to reveal the hot and hidden universe.

Read more…

The Mystery of Pluto’s Floating Hills

Sky & Telescope

Among its other geologic oddities, Pluto has clusters of hills floating in a frozen “sea” dominated by nitrogen ice. These bobbing bumps might hold clues to the plain’s depth and evolution.

Read more…

How Astronomers Count Sunspots
Sky & Telescope
A multi-year investigation revealed errors in our understanding of the Sun.

Read more…


This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 19 – 27

Sky & Telescope

Look for Castor and Pollux near the waxing Moon, then on February 23rd watch the Moon and Jupiter rise together.

Read more…

Jupiter Jumps Back Into the Evening Sky

Sky & Telescope

Jove begins a new apparition with a redder Red Spot, pirouetting moons, and ever-changing cloudscapes.

Read more…

S&T‘s Astronomy Podcast for February 2016

Sky & Telescope

This month’s audio sky tour starts before dawn, when you can spot all five bright planets by eye, and moves to the sparkling stars seen on winter evenings.

Read more…


How to Glimpse Omega Centauri

Sky & Telescope

The immense Omega Centauri is widely regarded as the most impressive globular cluster in the sky. Its deep southern location makes this object challenging to spot – but it can be done, as Italian observer Giuseppe Pappa explains.

Read more…

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Texas Men Get 15-Year Prison Terms for Brutal Anti-LGBT Hate Crime Assault​

Two Texas men involved in a brutal hate crime assault on a gay black man – called “heinous violence” by the Justice Department –– were sentenced Wednesday to serve 15 years in federal prison.

Ramiro Serrata Jr., 23, and Jimmy Garza, 33, pleaded guilty in September 2015 to conspiracy to commit hate crimes and a second count of violating the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act for causing bodily injury because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

During the March 8, 2012, assault, the defendants punched and kicked the man in an apartment before assaulting him with various weapons, including a frying pan, a mug, a sock filled with batteries, a broom and a belt, authorities said.

Serrata and Garza admitted calling the victim “gay” and using other racial and homophobic slurs. As they repeatedly whipped the victim with a belt, they called him a “slave” and made other references to slavery, investigators said.

As the assault continued, the assailants poured bleach on the victim’s face and eyes, and Garza struck the victim in the head with a handgun. When the victim began to bleed, the attackers forced him to remove all of his clothing and clean up his blood splatter throughout the apartment. After he was naked, investigators said, Garza pointed a gun at the victim while Serrata sodomized him with a broom handle.

Both men acknowledged they prevented the man from leaving the apartment by physical force and threats of force during the assault. Eventually, the bloodied victim escaped by jumping out of a window of the apartment and running until he was discovered by the police.

The victim of the attack told the court that he has recurring nightmares.

“I am two-fold devastated by the hateful nature of the attack,” the victim said, according to the Caller Times in Corpus Christi. “Firstly, as a homosexual man in America, to be sodomized, in and of itself is egregious; but even more degrading was, as an African American, to be whipped like a slave.”

Senior U.S. District Judge Hayden Head told the defendants they had abandoned their humanity to the viciousness of animals. He said the 15-year sentences were not only to punish the defendants, but to send a message that such inhuman criminal behavior won’t be tolerated.

“I cannot imagine the brutality it must take to commit the crime you committed,” Hayden told the defendants. “This type of brutality … words fail me except to say it’s inhuman and disgusting.”

Both men were ordered to pay $10,800 in restitution, serve three years of supervised release and register as sex offenders.

“Today’s sentencing makes clear that assaults based on bias and hate will not be tolerated in this nation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

A third defendant, Carlos Garcia Jr., pleaded guilty on Jan. 5, 2016, to one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. He faces a maximum sentence of five years when sentenced in March.



“Both men acknowledged they prevented the man from leaving the apartment by physical force and threats of force during the assault.”

That alone should have brought a charge of kidnapping.

Any use of force to prevent a person from leaving a domicile, constitutes holding a person against their will. Probably because the statute law of kidnapping is oftentimes difficult to define because it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most state and federal kidnapping statutes define the term kidnapping vaguely, and conviction for seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time, might have been hard to obtain, if there was no evidence of such an action being premeditated.

But, obviously the prosecution  felt that the charges of hate crime were sufficient enough to send these humans to prison.

“As the assault continued, the assailants poured bleach on the victim’s face and eyes, and Garza struck the victim in the head with a handgun. When the victim began to bleed, the attackers forced him to remove all of his clothing and clean up his blood splatter throughout the apartment. After he was naked, investigators said, Garza pointed a gun at the victim while Serrata sodomized him with a broom handle.”

When these two perps arrive in prison, a hell similar to what they did to this poor man awaits them.

Prison rape still occurs in prisons across this nation, and it would be poetic justice that such actions should befall these two monsters.

They may get out of prison early, due to good time done while incarcerated, but, once they leave prison, nothing will ever remove the chain of sex offender from them.

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