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HATEWATCH: WEST VIRGINIA POLICE OFFICER WHO FILMED DAUGHTER IN KLAN OUTFIT RESIGNS

West Virginia Police Officer Who Filmed Daughter in Klan Outfit Resigns

By Bill Morlin on January 22, 2015 – 1:51 pm

A police lieutenant in Charleston, W.Va., resigned yesterday just before he was scheduled to appear at a termination review hearing for producing racially insensitive videos involving his daughter dancing to KKK music.

Those who have seen the seven videos made by Lt. Terry Shawn Williams describe them as “disgusting and unspeakable,” Charleston station WCHS reported today.

“I knew when … I heard about [the videos] and when I saw them, this police officer was never going to wear a gun and a badge in the city of Charleston ever again,” Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said Wednesday.  “They’re a whole lot more than racially insensitive.”

The videos, stored on Williams personal computer, surfaced last year as he was going through a divorce, the West Virginia MetroNews Network reported.

They reportedly show Williams’ young daughter dressed like a police officer and dancing to KKK music. The videos were shown privately to some Charleston City Council members in December, three months after Williams was placed on administrative leave. The mayor said he doesn’t regret that decision or a judge’s order sealing the tapes.

The mayor said the city didn’t leak word of the videos, which he suggested came from one of the “many people who were privy to the divorce.” Now, Jones said, “We don’t have to show them in a hearing and hopefully no one will ever see them again unless it’s in his divorce hearing.”

Williams’ decision to resign came on the eve of a hearing before a city police appeals board where he sought to appeal a decision by the department to fire him. The police officer, who frequently acted as the department’s media spokesman, has said he believes the investigation was politically motivated and that he knows about other incidents of racism within the police department.

To that, the mayor said Williams “was just trying to shed blame. He can go out … and make all the allegations he wants against us. Now, all he can do is go back to his klavern,” a reference to a KKK chapter.

“I knew he couldn’t win this case and apparently he finally did, too,” the mayor told MetroNews. “I think it’s a sad chapter in our history that’s finally come to an end.”

In his resignation letter to Police Chief Brent Webster, Williams said: “It is clear to me and most of the general public that I will not be able (to) resolve my personal problems based upon the way in which this administration has strategically ‘leaked’ and handled my internal investigation. In my sixteen years of service to this department, I have never before witnessed the ‘leaks’ from an internal investigation such as mine. Therefore, I feel that resigning is in the best interests for my family.”

Jones suggested the resignation also is in the city’s best interest, and now he vows to see that Williams’ police certification is revoked so he can’t become a police officer elsewhere.

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SKYWATCH: COMET LANDING SITE PICKED, COUNTING ALL THE SKY’S STARS, AND MORE

LATEST NEWS

Where Will Philae Land on Comet 67P?
On November 11th, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft will dispatch the heavily instrumented Philae lander to an area called “Site J” on one end of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Small Galaxy Boasts Big Black Hole


Astronomers have detected a supermassive black hole in the center of a tiny galaxy – where it has no right to be.

OBSERVING HIGHLIGHTS

9,096 Stars in the Sky – Is That All?


Ten thousand stars bedazzle the eye on a dark night. Wait, how many?

Tour September’s Sky: Farewell to Saturn


The astronomical calendar says autumn arrives on September 22nd. It’s a season of transition, with plenty of celestial comings and goings in the evening sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 19-27


Sky & Telescope’s weekly celestial-events calendar, with sky views, offers selected astronomy sights for your unaided eyes, binoculars, or a telescope.

COMMUNITY

Calling All U.S. Amateur Astronomers


NASA’s Night Sky Network is conducting a new survey in order to better help the amateur astronomy community in the United States.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-14-2012

ARLEN SPECTER, FORMER SENATOR

 

J.Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, swore in Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. at the start of his 2006 Supreme Court confirmation hearing. More Photos »

By

Published: October 14, 2012

  • WASHINGTON — Arlen Specter, the irascible senator from Pennsylvania who was at the center of many of the Senate’s most divisive legal battles — from the Supreme Court nominations of Robert H. Bork and Clarence Thomas to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton — only to lose his seat in 2010 after quitting the Republican Party to become a Democrat, died Sunday morning at his home in Philadelphia. He was 82.

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Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Mr. Specter was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator.                            More Photos »

The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his son Shanin said. Mr. Specter had previously fought Hodgkin’s disease and survived a brain tumor and heart bypass surgery.

Hard-edged and tenacious yet ever the centrist, Mr. Specter was a part of American public life for more than four decades. As an ambitious young lawyer for the Warren Commission, he took credit for originating the theory that a single bullet, fired by a lone gunman, struck both President John F. Kennedy and Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. Seconds later, Kennedy was struck by a fatal shot to the head from the same gunman, the commission found.

In the Senate, where he was long regarded as its sharpest legal mind, he led the Judiciary Committee through a tumultuous period that included two Supreme Court confirmations, even while battling Hodgkin’s disease in 2005 and losing his hair to chemotherapy.

Yet he may be remembered best for his quixotic party switch in 2009 and the subsequent campaign that cost him the Senate seat he had held for almost 30 years. After 44 years as a Republican, Mr. Specter, who began his career as a Democrat, changed sides because he feared a challenge from the right. He wound up losing in a Democratic primary; the seat stayed in Republican hands.

“Arlen Specter was always a fighter,” President Obama said in a statement issued Sunday, calling Mr. Specter “fiercely independent” and citing his “toughness and determination” in dealing with his personal health struggles.

One of the few remaining Republican moderates on Capitol Hill at a time when the party had turned sharply to the right, Mr. Specter confounded fellow Republicans at every turn. He unabashedly supported Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, and championed biomedical and embryonic stem cell research long before he received his cancer diagnosis.

When he made a bid for the White House in 1995, he denounced the Christian right as an extremist “fringe” — an unorthodox tactic for a candidate trying to win votes in a Republican primary. The campaign was short-lived; Mr. Specter ended it when he ran out of cash. Years later, he said wryly of the other candidates, “I was the only one of nine people in New Hampshire who wanted to keep the Department of Education.”

He enjoyed a good martini and a fast game of squash, and he was famous for parsing his words to wiggle out of tight spots. During Mr. Clinton’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction, Mr. Specter, objecting to what he called a “sham trial” without witnesses, signaled that he would vote to acquit.

But a simple “not guilty” vote would have put him directly at odds with Republicans; instead, citing Scottish law, Mr. Specter voted “not proven,” adding, “therefore not guilty.”

He relished the decades he spent on the Judiciary Committee. He enraged conservatives in 1987 by helping to derail Judge Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court and then delighted them four years later by backing Justice Thomas. The Thomas confirmation nearly cost Mr. Specter his Senate seat; even now, millions of American women remain furious with him for his aggressive questioning of Anita F. Hill, a law professor who had accused Justice Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If he had any regrets, Mr. Specter rarely admitted them.

“I’ve gone back and looked at every frame of the videos on Professor Hill, and I did not ask her one unprofessional question,” he said in a 2004 interview with The New York Times. Of the Bork and Thomas confirmations, he said, “I may be wrong, but I’m satisfied with what I did in both those cases.”

Brash confidence and outsize ego were characteristic of Mr. Specter, a man so feared by his own aides and so brusque with colleagues that he earned the nickname Snarlin’ Arlen on Capitol Hill. In 1992, when Mr. Specter’s Senate seat was in danger after the Thomas hearings, Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the modern conservative movement, campaigned for him. His rationale was expressed in a statement he made to fellow conservatives, as quoted by the conservative magazine National Review.

“Arlen Specter is a jerk,” he was said to have remarked, “but he’s our jerk.”

Those close to Mr. Specter say there was a softer side to him, but no one denied that as a lawmaker he was all business, with little patience for the false pleasantries of politics.

G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., who followed Mr. Specter’s career, once described how the senator would conduct constituent meetings: “He’ll say, ‘I’m delighted to be here,’ and give his standard 10- or 15-minute opening. Then he’ll say, ‘I’ll take questions now; whoever has a question, put up their hands.’ He will count the hands — 1, 2, 3, 4, to 20. And when 20 is over, he’s out of there.”

Arlen Specter was born on Feb. 12, 1930, in Wichita, Kan., the fourth and youngest child of Harry and Lillian Specter. Harry Specter, a Jewish émigré from the Ukraine, then part of Russia, moved his family back and forth between the East Coast and the Midwest seeking work before settling in Kansas as a peddler. By the time Arlen was 5, he too was peddling, selling cantaloupes door to door by his father’s side.

When scrap metal became salable during World War II, the Specters moved to the small Kansas town of Russell, coincidentally the hometown of another person who would become a prominent Republican senator, Bob Dole. There, the elder Specter opened a junkyard; when tornadoes blew through, he sent his son into the oil fields with a torch to cut up the toppled derricks.

Carl Feldbaum, a friend and a former chief of staff to the senator, traced Mr. Specter’s gruffness to those days.

“There’s a hard-bitten quality that came out of being an immigrant,” Mr. Feldbaum said, “of being the only Jewish family in a small Midwestern town and living through the Depression, war era.”

The Specters later moved to Philadelphia — “so my sister could meet and marry a nice Jewish boy,” Mr. Specter explained — where he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1951, served in the Air Force and then earned a law degree from Yale in 1956. By 1959, he was an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, prosecuting union racketeers and attracting the attention of some leaders in Washington.

His parents were Democrats, and so was he, until he tried to run for Philadelphia district attorney in 1965. As Mr. Specter recalled, the local Democratic chairman told him that the party did not want a “young Tom Dewey as D.A.,” a reference to the former New York governor and racket-buster Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican. So Mr. Specter ran on the Republican ticket as a Democrat. He switched his party registration after he won.

Thus began what Mr. Specter liked to call “the continuing effort I have made to pull the Republican Party to the center.”

He won his first election to the Senate in 1980 and, as he recounted in his 2000 autobiography, “Passion for Truth,” immediately began courting Senator Strom Thurmond, the deeply conservative South Carolina Republican who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeking a seat on the panel.

In the Senate, Mr. Specter, putting his prosecutor’s skills to use, was a relentless interrogator in judicial confirmations. Tom Korologos, a former ambassador and a lobbyist who was often called upon by Republican presidents to shepherd their nominees through the Senate, said that no matter how much information a nominee provided, Mr. Specter wanted more — “the Ph.D. treatment,” in Mr. Korologos’s words.

Never was that more true than during the Bork hearings.

“Bork, I have said many times, was the Einstein of the law,” Mr. Korologos said, “and Specter was the Einstein of the Senate, and they used to talk past each other like two trains. Specter would ask these long, convoluted questions, and Bork would give these long, convoluted answers.”

The Senate rejected the nomination, and conservatives never forgave Mr. Specter. Judge Bork, in an interview with The Times in 2004, called him “generally a bit shifty.” Likewise, women’s groups, who had considered Mr. Specter an ally, never forgave him for accusing Ms. Hill of perjury. Ultimately, Mr. Specter expressed contrition, saying he had come to understand why Ms. Hill’s complaint of sexual harassment had “touched a raw nerve among so many women.”

But the remark, coming in 1992 when Mr. Specter was facing a tough re-election campaign, rang hollow with his critics and even some admirers, who said it was another example of how he did whatever it took to save his political career.

“He would always seem to walk up to the edge, the abyss politically, and find a way to extricate himself from the problem,” Professor Madonna said. “He could pull the rabbits out of more hats.”

But the rabbit-pulling came to an abrupt end in 2010 for Mr. Specter, the longest-serving senator in Pennsylvania history. The year before, as the Tea Party gained strength, Mr. Specter candidly declared his Republican-to-Democrat conversion a matter of political survival.

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate — not prepared to have that record decided by that jury,” he said.

Republicans were knocked off stride; many had no warning from Mr. Specter. At first, it seemed that he might have an easy ride to the Democratic nomination. But even with the endorsement of Mr. Obama, he failed to attract support from Democrats. Many were annoyed by the alliance he had forged years earlier with another Pennsylvania senator, the conservative Republican Rick Santorum.

Mr. Specter lost his primary race with just 46 percent of the vote — an outcome that left him looking drained and shocked. In a memoir published last year, “Life Among the Cannibals,” he denounced the partisanship that has enveloped Washington.

“The fringes have displaced tolerance with purity tests,” he wrote.

Besides his son Shanin, Mr. Specter is survived by his wife of 59 years, Joan; a sister, Shirley Kety; another son, Stephen; and four grandchildren.

Though Mr. Specter was known mostly for his contributions to domestic policy — along with Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, he successfully fought to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health for medical research during the Clinton years — he dipped into foreign policy as well. Mr. Feldbaum, Mr. Specter’s former chief of staff, recalled a trip they made to Baghdad in 1990 to meet Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Specter took a camera along — “out of caution, he wanted us to have our own pictures,” Mr. Feldbaum said — but palace guards wrested it out of Mr. Feldbaum’s hands. When Mr. Hussein arrived, the senator demanded his camera back.

“It wasn’t the camera; it was the principle,” Mr. Feldbaum said. “It wasn’t only that he was a United States senator and a representative of the United States of America. He was Arlen Specter.”

SOURCE

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GARY COLLINS, HOST OF MISS AMERICA PAGEANT

By

Published: October 13, 2012

  • Gary Collins, a prolific actor who became a successful host of daytime talk shows and — for almost a decade — master of ceremonies for the Miss America pageant, died on Saturday in Biloxi, Miss. He was 74.

Phil Mccarten/Getty Images

In a performing career that spanned more than four decades, Gary Collins made guest appearances on dozens of television shows, including “Charlie’s Angels” and “JAG.”

Mr. Collins died of natural causes, Brian Switzer, the Harrison County deputy coroner, said.

In a performing career that spanned more than four decades, Mr. Collins made guest appearances on dozens of television shows, including “The Virginian,” “Love, American Style,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “JAG.”

Mr. Collins became a familiar face in American living rooms in the 1980s as the congenial host of the syndicated afternoon talk show “Hour Magazine,” for which he won a daytime Emmy in 1983, and later, as the host of the Miss America Pageant from 1982 to 1990.

From 1989 to 1994, he was the host of another daytime talk show, “The Home Show,” on ABC.

Born in Venice, Calif., on April 30, 1938, Mr. Collins became interested in acting while in the Army, where he performed on the Armed Forces Network.

He had his first break in 1965 with a supporting role on the NBC series “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” with Jack Warden. He appeared with Dale Robertson in the 1966-68 series “Iron Horse,” and in 1972 he starred in “The Sixth Sense,” a series in which he played a parapsychologist.

In 1974, he starred in a short-lived TV version of “Born Free.”

In 1967, he married Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America of 1959. The couple separated last year.

Besides his wife, survivors include their daughter, Marcy Clancy Collins; and two children from his first marriage, to Susan Peterson, Guy and Melissa Collins.

In recent years, Mr. Collins, a resident of Biloxi, had legal troubles, including convictions for drunken driving and leaving the scene of a traffic accident.

With a cheerful smile and good looks, Mr. Collins was known for his warm, welcoming style.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1989, he said he was unsuited for the tabloid talk-show format that was emerging: “That’s basically not a part of my character.”

SOURCE

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ANDREW BRIMMER, FIRST BLACK MEMBER ON FED BOARD

By

Published: October 12, 2012

  • Andrew F. Brimmer, a Louisiana sharecropper’s son who was the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board and who led efforts to to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 86.

William E. Sauro/The New York Times

Andrew F. Brimmer in 1974, shortly after he resigned from the Fed board.

His death, after a long illness, was confirmed by his daughter, Esther Brimmer.

Dr. Brimmer, an economist, held a number of high-ranking posts in Washington and taught at Harvard, but the economic conditions of poor, powerless, uneducated blacks was an abiding concern. He spoke about what he called the “schism” between blacks who were educated and had marketable skills and those who did not. In later years he spoke frequently about how government policies no longer supported programs to help blacks enter the economic mainstream.

Dr. Brimmer was the assistant secretary of commerce for economic affairs when President Lyndon B. Johnson named him to the Fed board in 1966.

At the time, the Federal Reserve was bitterly divided over monetary policy. The chairman, William McChesney Martin Jr., threatened to resign if Mr. Johnson appointed a liberal who would vote in favor of lower interest rates.

At Dr. Brimmer’s swearing-in ceremony, the president said he did not expect Dr. Brimmer to be “an easy money man or a tight money man.” Rather, Mr. Johnson said, “I expect him to be a right money man.”

The Wall Street Journal expressed skepticism, with a front-page article headlined “Desire to Aid Negroes Could Make New ‘Fed’ Member More Liberal.” It quoted an anonymous source saying that the appointment was yet another example of Mr. Johnson’s political foxiness. “The president has Martin in a box,” the source told The Journal. “If Martin resigned now, it would look like it was because he didn’t want a Negro on the board.”

Early in his tenure, Dr. Brimmer followed the lead of Mr. Martin and other “tight money” board members by supporting a gradual increase in interest rates to fight inflation. But when Congress raised taxes in 1968 and cut spending to cut inflation, he was one of the first Fed governors to call for lowering rates.

At the Commerce Department, Dr. Brimmer’s primary responsibility was to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit. He spent a good deal of time persuading American businesses to voluntarily slow their use of dollars in foreign investments. He also encouraged foreign companies to use their own currency to make investments in the United States.

In a speech in December 1965, he reported that his efforts had resulted in a drop in direct American investments overseas, to $515 million in the third quarter of that year from $1.12 billion in the first quarter.

That work built on his interest in foreign affairs, which started when he went to India with the Fulbright Program and wrote papers on the Indian economy.

As a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the late 1950s, he was part of a team that visited Sudan to explore the feasibility of a central bank there. He later wrote an article on banking and finance in Sudan for The South African Journal of Economics. He became known as the international monetary policy expert on the Federal Reserve Board.

Dr. Brimmer served a little more than eight years of his 14-year term, leaving the board in 1974 to join the faculty of the Harvard Business School and start a consulting firm, Brimmer & Company. His academic career also included study in India at the Delhi School of Economics and the University of Bombay.

In 1995, he was chosen to head a five-member financial control board to help the District of Columbia deal with a financial crisis. He stepped down after a contentious three years in the job.

Andrew Felton Brimmer Jr. was born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Newellton, La. After graduating from high school he went to Washington State, where one of his sisters lived. He joined the Army near the end of World War II and attained the rank of staff sergeant, remaining in the United States.

Besides his daughter, who is the assistant secretary for international organization affairs at the State Department, he is survived by his wife, Doris Scott Brimmer.

Dr. Brimmer attended the University of Washington in Seattle on the G.I. Bill of Rights, earning an undergraduate degree in economics in 1950 and a master’s degree the next year.

He then went to India before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, where he earned a doctorate. In 1965, Dr. Brimmer was part of a federal delegation sent to Los Angeles after rioting in the Watts neighborhood left 34 people dead and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. He commissioned a Census Bureau study that found that the purchasing power of the average family in Watts had declined by $400 in the five years before the riots while incomes had risen in the rest of America.

“I do feel that the economic plight of blacks is a serious matter,” he told The New York Times in 1973. “So I bring the same economist’s tool kit to that subject as other economists bring to examine other national economic problems.”

SOURCE

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BARBARA BLUM, WHO RESCUED ABUSED WILLOWBROOK RESIDENTS

By

Published: October 10, 2012

  • Barbara Blum, a former high-ranking social services official who found homes for hundreds of mentally disabled people after their mistreatment at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island became a national scandal in the 1970s, died on Saturday in Albany. She was 82.

Vic DeLucia/The New York Times

Barbara Blum

The cause was congestive heart failure, her son Thomas said.

Ms. Blum was New York State’s social services commissioner from 1977 to 1982, and she earlier worked for Mayor John V. Lindsay’s administration, leading a task force on mental health and retardation and overseeing services for disadvantaged children. But perhaps her most visible impact was made in rescuing abused Willowbrook residents by finding them safe places to live in group homes.

The deplorable conditions at Willowbrook, a state-run institution, seized the nation’s attention in 1972, when Geraldo Rivera, then a reporter for WABC-TV in New York, put a spotlight on them, showing children lying naked on the floor, their bodies contorted, their feces spread on walls. His reports were broadcast nationally. More than 5,400 people lived on the Willowbrook campus, making it the biggest state-run institution for mentally disabled people in the United States.

Willowbrook residents and their parents, aided by civil libertarians and mental health advocates, sued New York State to prevent further deterioration and to establish that residents had a constitutional right to treatment. The state settled with the plaintiffs and signed a court decree in April 1975 promising to improve conditions at Willowbrook and to transfer residents to new homes.

Ms. Blum, a state social services official at the time, was placed in charge of the Metropolitan Placement Unit, set up to find homes for the residents in what would be, at the time, the largest placement of mentally disabled people in the nation’s history. The decree ordering the “deinstitutionalization,” which had become a national trend, called for all but 250 of the residents to be placed in group homes or foster care by 1981.

The task promised to be daunting. There were no community organizations trained in performing such a transfer, and many established social services groups refused to participate, doubting that the task could be done at all, much less on time.

Others had turned down the job, and Ms. Blum later expressed suspicion that Gov. Hugh L. Carey’s aides had chosen her to lead the unit, a largely autonomous body, so that she would be the scapegoat if the effort failed.

“There seemed to be a kind of precipitous desire to see that I was there for the court,” she said in an interview for the 1984 book “The Willowbrook Wars,” by David and Sheila Rothman.

As it happened, logistical and legal difficulties delayed the emptying of Willowbrook until 1987. But working with Roman Catholic and black community organizations, Ms. Blum found more than 100 homes for more than 1,000 Willowbrook residents despite meeting intense opposition in neighborhoods; in some instances, she was pelted with eggs, and her nose was broken.

To Ms. Blum, the assignment was also a personal mission. Her second son, Jonathan, was profoundly affected by autism.

Barbara Jean Rebecca Bennett was born on Jan. 18, 1930, in Beaver, Pa. She graduated from Vassar College as a mathematics major. In 1951, she married Robert M. Blum, who survives her. In addition to her sons Thomas and Jonathan, she is also survived by her son Stephen; a daughter, Jennifer Weinschenk; and five grandchildren.

Robert Blum, a former Olympic fencer, became an aide to Mr. Lindsay, first in Congress and then at City Hall. Mr. Blum frequently told Mr. Lindsay how hard it was to find help for Jonathan. He and his wife had banded together with other parents to start their own nursery school and an organization to lobby for mentally disabled people. One of the mayor’s first official acts was to appoint Ms. Blum to the New York City Community Mental Health Board.

She went on to a number of city government posts, including as deputy commissioner for mental health and mental retardation services, commissioner for special services to children and director of a council on child welfare that encompassed 50 city agencies.

In 1973, she was named assistant executive director of the state’s social welfare board. In 1975, she was given the additional job of heading the Metropolitan Placement Unit. In 1977, Governor Carey appointed her commissioner of the State Department of Social Services.

In later years, among other positions, she was a senior fellow at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Six years after the last residents left Willowbrook, its buildings became a campus of the College of Staten Island.

Jonathan Blum has lived for years in a group home in Brooklyn, where, his brother Thomas said, he has achieved a regular schedule of walks, exercise and going to the store to buy a soda.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 12, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary mistakenly referred to Robert M. Blum as Robert R. Blum. The article also misstated where Jonathan Blum has lived for years in a group home. It is Brooklyn, not the Bronx.

SOURCE

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ERIC LOMAX, RIVER KWAI PRISONER WHO FORGAVE

 

Micool Brooke/Associated Press

Eric Lomax, left, in 1998 with Nagase Takashi, his chief wartime tormentor. The two met again at the River Kwai, Thailand.

By

Published: October 9, 2012

  • Eric Lomax, a former British soldier who was tortured by the Japanese while he was a prisoner during World War II and half a century later forgave one of his tormentors — an experience he recounted in a memoir, “The Railway Man” — died on Monday in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Vintage Books.

Mr. Lomax, who was born in Scotland, was 19 when he joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1939. He was one of thousands of British soldiers who surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. Many were relocated to Thailand and forced to build the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The building of the railroad and the brutality involved was portrayed in “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 film directed by David Lean.

Mr. Lomax was repeatedly beaten and interrogated after his captors found a radio receiver he had made from spare parts. Multiple bones were broken and water was poured into his nose and mouth. One of his constant torturers stood out: Nagase Takashi, an interpreter.

“At the end of the war, I would have been happy to murder him,” Mr. Lomax told The New York Times in 1995, shortly after the “The Railway Man” was published and became a best seller.

In the book, Mr. Lomax described having fantasies about meeting Mr. Nagase one day and how he had spent much of the 1980s looking for information about him. He learned that after the war Mr. Nagase had become an interpreter for the Allies and helped locate thousands of graves and mass burial sites along the Burma Railway.

The men finally met in 1993, after Mr. Lomax had read an article about Mr. Nagase’s being devastated by guilt over his treatment of one particular British soldier. Mr. Lomax realized that he was that soldier.

“When we met, Nagase greeted me with a formal bow,” Mr. Lomax said on the Web site of the Forgiveness Project, a British group that seeks to bring together victims and perpetrators of crimes. “I took his hand and said in Japanese, ‘Good morning, Mr. Nagase, how are you?’ He was trembling and crying, and he said over and over again: ‘I am so sorry, so very sorry.’ ”

Mr. Lomax continued: “I had come with no sympathy for this man, and yet Nagase, through his complete humility, turned this around. In the days that followed we spent a lot of time together, talking and laughing.” He added, “We promised to keep in touch and have remained friends ever since.”

Mr. Lomax told The Times said Mr. Nagase’s later life resembled his own. “He has had the same psychological and career problems that I have,” he said.

A film based on “The Railway Man,” starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, is scheduled to be released next year.

Mr. Lomax was born in Edinburgh, graduated from Royal High School and took a job with the city’s postal service at 16, according to The Herald Scotland newspaper. After the war he enlisted in two more years of military service and rose to captain. He later studied personnel management and became a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland, even as his anger and bitterness created problems in his personal life.

Mr. Lomax is survived by his wife, Patti; a daughter from a previous marriage; and four stepchildren.

His search for Mr. Nagase began in earnest after he retired, in 1982. His wife, a nurse he married in the 1980s, wrote the first letter to Mr. Nagase on her husband’s behalf, and she helped arrange the 1993 meeting, which took place at the bridge on the Kwai.

“I haven’t forgiven Japan as a nation,” Mr. Lomax told The Times, “but I’ve forgiven one man, because he’s experienced such great personal regret.”

SOURCE

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MERVYN DYMALLY, WHO BROKE RACIAL BARRIERS IN CALIFORNIA

 

Lennox McLendon/Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, with Mervyn M. Dymally, then lieutenant governor, in 1978. Mr. Dymally also served 12 years in Congress.

By

Published: October 9, 2012

  • Mervyn M. Dymally, who broke barriers as a black lawmaker in California and in Congress after moving to the United States from his native Trinidad at age 19, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 86.

He had been in hospice care, his daughter, Lynn V. Dymally, said.

Mr. Dymally became California’s first foreign-born black state assemblyman when he was elected in 1962, its first black state senator four years later and, in 1974, its first black lieutenant governor. In 1980 he became one of the first foreign-born blacks elected to the House of Representatives, where he served six terms representing Compton and other heavily black, low-income areas. He also led the Congressional Black Caucus for a time.

His success in winning office was rooted in his work organizing a new black Democratic base in areas around Los Angeles beginning in the 1950s and 1960s.

“This was a transformational period,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, an expert in racial and ethnic politics in Los Angeles and the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. “Between 1958 and 1962, the Democratic Party really came of age in the African-American community in California,” he said.

The area’s minority population had long been marginalized, but as the political climate changed, it created opportunities for new leaders like Mr. Dymally, Mr. Sonenshein said.

“If you came in from the outside and were able to put things together, it was fertile territory,” he said. “He was a very effective organizational leader.”

Mr. Dymally’s rise partly paralleled that of Tom Bradley, who became the first black mayor of Los Angeles. But Mr. Bradley built a coalition from a rising black economic class and liberal whites; Mr. Dymally, by contrast, galvanized poor and working-class residents and labor unions. He worked to improve health care for the poor and sponsored legislation to lower the state voting age to 18 and to expand civil rights protections for women. As lieutenant governor under Gov. Jerry Brown, Mr. Dymally joined Cesar Chavez in trying to protect farm workers from automation, which was taking away jobs.

Mr. Dymally was often trailed by accusations of corruption, including that he took bribes, but he never faced criminal charges. In 1978, he was defeated while seeking re-election as lieutenant governor after a television news report that he was going to be indicted. The indictment never happened, and two years later Mr. Dymally was elected to Congress after two other candidates had split the white vote in a Democratic primary.

In 2002, a decade after he retired from Congress, he was elected to fill the same Assembly seat he had won in 1962. He served three terms and lost a 2008 bid for State Senate.

Mervyn Malcolm Dymally was born May 12, 1926, in Bonasse Village in Cedros, Trinidad. His father was a Muslim of Indian descent. His mother was a Roman Catholic of mixed racial heritage. He eventually made it to Southern California, where he graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees at other schools. He taught special education in Los Angeles schools before entering politics.

Besides his daughter, Lynn, he is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Alice Gueno; his son, Mark; three sisters, Marjorie, Courtney and Hazel Dymally; two brothers, Bing and Malcolm; and three grandchildren. A marriage to Amentha Isaacs ended in divorce.

Lynn Dymally noted that even as her father embraced the struggles of American blacks, his own racial identity was complicated. She said that his marriage certificate to his first wife lists him as Indian, but that his race is described as “Negro” on her United States birth certificate.

Late in his life, as California became more diverse, he told his daughter, “You know, it’s strange, people are now referring to me as of Asian descent.”

Ms. Dymally added, “He always considered himself black or African-American even though there were distinctive qualities about him that would have made some people think he was Indian.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 10, 2012

An obituary on Tuesday about the California politician Mervyn M. Dymally erroneously attributed a distinction to him. While he was California’s first black state senator and first black lieutenant governor, he was not the state’s first black assemblyman. (Mr. Dymally, who was born in Trinidad, was California’s first foreign-born black state assemblyman, but there had been three other black members of the California Assembly before Mr. Dymally was elected in 1962.)

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COLORLINES: CASUALTIES IN THE WAR ON WOMEN

The War on Women and Its Consequences

Poor and uninsured women of color are starting to feel the results after two years of relentless attacks on family planning infrastructure. Akiba Solomon reports from Texas.

INFOGRAPHIC: Who gets hurt when family planning gets cut.

How Diversity Trumped Equity—and May Kill Affirmative Action

As the Supreme Court weighs the latest effort to end affirmative action, Julianne Hing explores how the core rationale got lost in decades of legal wrangling.

Affirmative Action’s Fate May Turn on Defining ‘Critical Mass’ of Diversity

Victor Goode follows Wednesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court, where the pressing question was how one knows when there’s enough diversity.

What Lupe Fiasco’s Brand Of Hip-Hop Says About Our Political Culture
His outspoken politics aren’t all that surprising. But they’re unique at a time when hip-hop’s afraid to be too confrontational.

The Real Audience for ‘Won’t Back Down’ May Not Have Been Moviegoers
The movie has been a box office flop. But backers of the controversial “parent trigger” school reform movement have a powerful new organizing tool.

Ava DuVernay Presents Prison’s New Math in ‘Middle of Nowhere’
The award-winning director talks to Colorlines.com about her latest film and her proudest moments.

Are True the Vote’s Poll Watching Activities Illegal?
Rep. Elijah Cummings and legal experts say if they are targeting people of color, a court could find True the Vote operations unlawful.

A Swing State Disenfranchises Its Poor Electorate
Our community journalist Kate Sedinger chimes in from Nevada, where public service agencies are accused of not providing their clients with registration forms.

Stacey Dash Defends Mitt Romney Endorsement on CNN
After taking heat, the black actress explains, “It’s because of the state of the country.”

Watch the Only Known Recording of NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk in Action
The New York Police Department conducts more than 1,800 stop-and-frisks each day.

Junot Díaz, Louis Erdrich Among National Book Award Nominees
Another big week for our Facing Race 2012 keynote speaker.Register now to join Díaz Colorlines and hundreds of racial justice thinkers in Baltimore, Nov. 15-17.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-7-2012

R.B. GREAVES OF ‘TAKE A LETTER, MARIA’ FAME

By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK

Published: October 2, 2012

R. B. Greaves, an R&B singer whose 1969 hit “Take a Letter, Maria” reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 68.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

R. B. Greaves, about 1970. He wrote “Take a Letter, Maria.”

His death was confirmed by his son, Shiloh Greaves.

“Take a Letter, Maria,” which Mr. Greaves wrote, is about a hard-working man who dictates a “Dear Jane” letter to his secretary after coming home to find his wife “in the arms of another man.”

He sings, more in acceptance than in anger: “So take a letter, Maria, address it to my wife/Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life.”

Despite its theme of betrayal, the song remains upbeat and ends with the husband asking Maria out to dinner.

The song, which was recorded at the hitmaking Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, went gold, selling more than a million copies.

Mr. Greaves was a nephew of the gospel and soul singer Sam Cooke, who was shot and killed by a Los Angeles motel manager in 1964.

Mr. Greaves’s 1970 version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Always Something There to Remind Me” reached No. 27 on the Billboard chart. (A version by the synth-pop group Naked Eyes hit No. 8 on the chart in 1983.) Among his other recordings were covers of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale.”

Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves was born on Nov. 28, 1943, at an Air Force base in Georgetown in what was then British Guyana. He was raised on a Seminole reservation in California. In 1963 Mr. Greaves moved to England to perform and record as the frontman for Sonny Childe and the TNT’s.

He returned to America to record “Take a Letter, Maria” on Atco Records and “Always Something There to Remind Me,” both of which appeared on his album “R.B. Greaves.”

Mr. Greaves moved to Los Angeles and began to work in the technology industry after a failed attempt to revive his recording career in the late 1970s.

SOURCE

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CARROLL F. JOHNSON, SCHOOL INTEGRATOR

Published: October 6, 2012

Carroll F. Johnson, a Southern-born educator who was one of the first superintendents to voluntarily use busing to integrate an urban school district, doing so in White Plains in the 1960s, died on Monday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 99.

Teachers College, Columbia University

Carroll F. Johnson created a busing plan for White Plains that was used as a model.

He had been weakened by a long battle with blood infections, his son, Walter, said in confirming the death.

Dr. Johnson’s commitment to equal educational opportunities for minorities took root in the Jim Crow South of 1941, his son said. At the time, Dr. Johnson had just received a master’s degree in education from the University of Georgia when he watched as Gov. Eugene Talmadge stacked its board of regents with allies to force the ouster of Walter Cocking, the dean of the education school.

The governor said Dr. Cocking needed to be removed because he planned to create an integrated demonstration school.

The firing drew national attention, and it was not far from his mind, his son said, when he went to Westchester County in 1954 to run the White Plains schools. The Supreme Court had just issued its Brown v. Board of Education decision, ending legal segregation in the public schools.

The White Plains system’s student body was about 20 percent black then, with black students largely concentrated in a few neighborhood schools because of housing patterns. Dr. Johnson saw this as de facto school segregation, and he tried to redress it through a number of remedies, including building schools with special amenities to attract both white and black children.

By 1964, however, he had decided that the effort was too piecemeal and that black and white students remained largely isolated from one another. He put together what he called the White Plains Racial Balance Plan, which essentially called for busing hundreds of children so that no school had less than 10 percent minority enrollment or more than 30 percent. He also closed one school that had been overwhelmingly black.

To ease the way in putting the plan into effect, he built alliances with PTA leaders and the editor of the local newspaper. “He was a Southerner and kept his drawl, and I don’t think people saw him coming,” his son said.

The busing plan fell into place with remarkably little resistance. Four years later, the schools could report a rise in test scores for black students, no decline in white scores and no significant white exodus out of the school system.

Dr. Johnson said the key to the program’s success was that the busing went essentially one way: black children being transferred to white schools.

“Our residents wish, for the most part, to provide equal opportunity for all children — even at some inconvenience to themselves,” Dr. Johnson wrote in 1968 in evaluating the program. “But I do not believe that the majority of white parents would willingly have sent their own youngsters into center city schools.”

Dr. Johnson left White Plains in 1969 for Columbia University to become a professor of education administration and director of the Institute of Field Studies at Teachers College. In announcing his arrival, TC Week, a Teachers College publication, wrote that Dr. Johnson’s racial desegregation plan “became a model for other school systems in their desegregation efforts.”

In 1988, the White Plains system instituted a new way to bring racial balance to its student population, letting parents select among the schools in the district, with busing provided to students who live at a distance from the ones they choose.

Carroll Frye Johnson was born in Atlanta to Paul and Mattie Carroll Johnson on Jan. 16, 1913. His father died 18 months later, leaving Ms. Johnson to raise her son on her parents’ farm in Wildwood, Ga. Mr. Johnson received a partial scholarship to attend the University of Chattanooga (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga). He graduated in 1935.

Six years later, after he got his master’s degree in Georgia, he joined the Navy with the outbreak of World War II. An able swimmer with educational credentials, he was assigned to train recruits to swim under burning fuel. He was discharged in 1945 and went on to earn his doctorate in education from Columbia in 1950.

While working for Columbia, he was a consultant on roughly 150 searches for superintendents around the country, allowing him to further his commitment to moving more women and minorities into positions of power. “He was a champion for school integration, raising academic standards,” said Charles Fowler, who is executive secretary of Suburban School Superintendents, a national association. And, he added, “for significantly broadening the base of students studying to lead America’s schools.”

In addition to his son, Dr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Susan Kaye Johnson; a daughter, Katherine Sussman; a stepdaughter, Gillian Kaye; four grandchildren; a stepgrandchild; and two great-grandchildren.

Dr. Johnson kept a stack of newspaper clippings and letters from his fraught time in White Plains, according to an article about him published on a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Web site. He treasured one thank-you note in particular, from Dr. Errold D. Collymore, a black dentist.

“When you came to White Plains I was very apprehensive,” Dr. Collymore wrote, as quoted by the Web site. “I openly expressed my doubts and anxiety about a superintendent of schools for White Plains who came from Georgia.”

But, he added: “My early fears were unfounded and unfair. I have been greatly impressed with your fairness, your objectivity, your considerable administrative competence and your dignity and unmistakable humanity.”

SOURCE

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FRANK WILSON, MOTOWN SONGWRITER AND PRODUCER

By 

Published: October 3, 2012

Frank Wilson, a Motown producer and songwriter who wrote or co-wrote some of the label’s biggest hits, including “Love Child,”performed by the Supremes, “All I Need” by the Temptations and“Castles in the Sand” by Stevie Wonder, died on Sept. 27 in Duarte, Calif. He was 71.

Najee Williams

Frank Wilson started his career as a performer and had one single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).”

The cause was complications of a lung infection, his daughter Tracey Stein said. He had been treated for prostate cancer.

Mr. Wilson, who later became a born-again preacher, started his career as a performer and had one single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which became an underground hit long after he recorded it. But he had his greatest success behind the scenes.

After joining the Detroit-based Motown in the mid-1960s at its newly opened Los Angeles office, he was involved in composing numerous other pop hits, among them“Chained,” for Marvin Gaye, and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” for Brenda Holloway. She recorded the song in 1967, and it went on to become an even bigger hit forBlood, Sweat and Tears two years later.

In 1968, with the Supremes struggling to remain at the top of the Billboard charts, Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy, gathered Mr. Wilson and a few other confidants to develop a bolder approach for the group. They came up with “Love Child.” Its taboo-breaking lyrics, about having a child outside marriage, helped propel the song to No. 1 on the pop charts in late 1968.

After the Supremes’ lead singer, Diana Ross, left to start a solo career a year later, Mr. Wilson produced the group’s next album and came up with subsequent Supremes hits like “Up the Ladder to the Roof”(1970), which he co-wrote, and “Stoned Love” (1970).

But in 1974 he had a born-again experience and began holding Bible-study sessions for singers at his house. In 1976 he quit Motown and went on to form a ministry for entertainers. With his second wife, P. Bunny Wilson, he founded a church, New Dawn Christian Village, in Los Angeles in 2004.

Frank Edward Wilson was born on Dec. 5, 1940, in Houston to James Wilson and Samanther Gibbs. His uncles had a singing group, and his mother taught him to play the piano by ear.

Mr. Wilson attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., but dropped out after his scholarship was revoked for joining a civil-rights protest in his sophomore year. He got a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles, his daughter Tracey said.

Besides Ms. Stein, a child from his first marriage, to the singer Barbara Jean Dedmon, who died in 1966, he is survived by his wife and their four daughters, Launi King, Fawn Weaver, Christy Meeks and Gabrielle Wilson; a son from another relationship, Frank Wilson Jr.; three brothers, James, Leonard and Floyd; and a sister, Barbara Jean Hightower.

SOURCE

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BARRY COMMONER | 1917-2012 : SCIENTIST, CANDIDATE AND PLANET EARTH’S LIFEGUARD

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Last Word: Barry Commoner: Dr. Commoner, an early environmentalist, warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons testing. He was an early champion of recycling, organic food and reducing fossil fuel use.

By DANIEL LEWIS

Published: October 1, 2012 

Barry Commoner, a founder of modern ecology and one of its most provocative thinkers and mobilizers in making environmentalism a people’s political cause, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 95 and lived in Brooklyn Heights.

Related in Opinion

Jack Fahland/St. Louis Globe Democrat

Barry Commoner in 1971 at Washington University in St. Louis. He believed pollution, war and inequality were related issues.

His wife, Lisa Feiner, confirmed his death.

Dr. Commoner was a leader among a generation of scientist-activists who recognized the toxic consequences of America’s post-World War II technology boom, and one of the first to stir the national debate over the public’s right to comprehend the risks and make decisions about them.

Raised in Brooklyn during the Depression and trained as a biologist at Columbia and Harvard, he came armed with a combination of scientific expertise and leftist zeal. His work on the global effects of radioactive fallout, which included documenting concentrations of strontium 90 in the baby teeth of thousands of children, contributed materially to the adoption of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

From there it was a natural progression to a range of environmental and social issues that kept him happily in the limelight as a speaker and an author through the 1960s and ’70s, and led to a wobbly run for president in 1980.

In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, Time magazine put Dr. Commoner on its cover and called him the Paul Revere of Ecology. He was by no means the only one sounding alarms; the movement was well under way by then, building on the impact of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” in 1962 and the work of many others. But he was arguably the most peripatetic in his efforts to draw public attention to environmental dangers.

(The same issue of Time noted that President Richard M. Nixon had already signed on. In his State of the Union address that January, he said, “The great question of the ’70s is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?” And he followed through: Among other steps, the Environmental Protection Agency was established in December 1970.)

Dr. Commoner was an imposing professorial figure, with a strong face, heavy eyeglasses, black eyebrows and a thick head of hair that gradually turned pure white. He was much in demand as a speaker and a debater, especially on college campuses, where he helped supply a generation of activists with a framework that made the science of ecology accessible.

His four informal rules of ecology were catchy enough to print on a T-shirt and take to the street: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Although the rules were plain enough, the thinking behind them required leaps of faith. Dr. Commoner’s overarching concern was not ecology as such but rather a radical ideal of social justice in which everything was indeed connected to everything else. Like some other left-leaning dissenters of his time, he believed that environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem.

A Critic of Capitalism

Having been grounded, as an undergraduate, in Marxist theory, he saw his main target as capitalist “systems of production” in industry, agriculture, energy and transportation that emphasized profits and technological progress with little regard for consequences: greenhouse gases, nonbiodegradable materials, and synthetic fertilizers and toxic wastes that leached into the water supply.

He insisted that the planet’s future depended on industry’s learning not to make messes in the first place, rather than on trying to clean them up. It followed, by his logic, that scientists in the service of industry could not merely invent some new process or product and then wash their hands of moral responsibility for the side effects. He was a lasting opponent of nuclear power because of its radioactive waste; he scorned the idea of pollution credit swaps because, after all, he said, an industry would have to be fouling the environment in the first place to be rewarded by such a program.

In a “Last Word” interview with The New York Times in 2006, videotaped to accompany this obituary online, Dr. Commoner elaborated on his holistic views and lamented the inability of society to connect the dots among its multitude of challenges, calling it “an unfortunate feature of political development in this country.”

RubyWashington/The New York Times

Noting the success of movements that had promoted civil rights, sexual equality, organized labor, environmentalism and an end to the war in Vietnam, he said one might think that “if they would only get together, they could remake the country.” But, he added, that has not happened.

Then he said: “I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together. For example, if you’re going to revise the productive system to make cars or anything else in such a way as to suit the environmental necessities, at the same time why not see to it that women earn as much as men for the same work?”

Dr. Commoner’s diagnoses and prescriptions sometimes put him at odds with other environmental leaders. He is rightly remembered as an important figure in the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, a nationwide teach-in conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, and he himself regarded the observance as historically important. But Earth Day also illustrated the growing factionalization of a movement in which “environmentalism” comprised a number of agendas, all competing for attention and money, and could mean anything from ending the Vietnam War to growing one’s own cabbages.

That was the context for the rift between Dr. Commoner and advocates of population control, who saw environmental degradation as a byproduct of overpopulation. They had become a force on the strength of Paul R. Ehrlich’s huge best seller “The Population Bomb.” Conservationist groups like the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation were strong supporters of Dr. Ehrlich’s views.

Dr. Commoner took aim at the “neo-Malthusians,” as he called those who, like the English scholar Thomas Malthus, foresaw perils in population growth. In a panel discussion with Dr. Ehrlich in 1970, he said it was “a cop-out of the worst kind” to say that “none of our pollution problems can be solved without getting at population first.”

He elaborated in his best-known book, “The Closing Circle,” published the next year. Reducing population, Dr. Commoner wrote, was “equivalent to attempting to save a leaking ship by lightening the load and forcing passengers overboard.”

“One is constrained to ask if there isn’t something radically wrong with the ship.”

In the science establishment, Dr. Commoner’s standing was ambiguous. Along with eminent figures of the postwar years like the chemist Linus Pauling and the anthropologist Margaret Mead, he was concerned that the integrity of American science had been compromised — first by the government’s emphasis on supporting physics at the expense of other fields during the development of nuclear weapons, and second by the growing privatization of research, in which pure science took a back seat to projects that held short-range promise of marketable technologies.

It was a concern remarkably similar to that of the distinctly unradical Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned of the dangerous power of “the military-industrial complex” as he was leaving the presidency. But although Dr. Commoner had a record of achievement as a cellular biologist and founding director of the government-financed Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, he was seen primarily as the advocate for a politics that relatively few considered practicable or even desirable. Among other positions, he advocated forgiveness of all third world debt, which he said would decrease poverty and despair and thus act as a natural curb on population growth.

His platform did not get him very far in the 1980 presidential race, which he entered as thehead of his own Citizens’ Party. He won only about 234,000 votes as Ronald Reagan swept to victory. Dr. Commoner himself conceded that he would not have made a very good president. Still, he was angry that the questions he had raised had generated so little interest.

His own favorite moment of the campaign, he recalled many years later, was when a reporter in Albuquerque asked, “Dr. Commoner, are you a serious candidate, or are you just running on the issues?”

Barry Commoner was born on May 28, 1917, in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. His parents, the former Goldie Yarmolinsky and Isidore Commoner, were Jewish immigrants from Russia, his father a tailor until he went blind. (The original family name, Comenar, was Anglicized at the suggestion of an uncle of Barry’s, Avrahm Yarmolinsky, chief of the Slavonic department at the New York Public Library.)

Young Barry grew up at a time when it was possible to be both a tough street kid and a studious sort. He spent hours in Prospect Park collecting bits of nature, which he took home to inspect under a microscope that Uncle Avrahm had given him.

He was so shy at James Madison High School that he was referred to a speech correction class, and after graduation he set out on the track of a quiet academic career. With money earned from odd jobs, he put himself through Columbia, earning honors in his major, zoology; election to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi; and a B.A. degree in 1937, at 20. He went on to do graduate work at Harvard, where he got a Ph.D. in cellular biology. He taught for two years at Queens College and served in the Naval Air Corps in World War II, rising to lieutenant. In 1947 he joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis.

Role in Nuclear Test Ban

Parallel to his life as a public figure, Dr. Commoner had a reputation as a brilliant teacher and a painstaking researcher into viruses, cell metabolism and the effects of radiation on living tissue. A research team he led was the first to show that abnormal free radicals — groups of molecules with unpaired electrons — might be the earliest indicator of cancer in laboratory rats.

He found his political voice when he encountered the indifference of government authorities to the high levels of strontium 90 in the atmosphere from atomic tests. Quite simply, he said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 1993, “The Atomic Energy Commission turned me into an environmentalist.”

He helped organize the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information in 1958, and was eventually its president. Dr. Commoner told Scientific American years later that the committee’s task “was to explain to the public — first in St. Louis and then nationally — how splitting a few pounds of atoms could turn something as mild as milk into a devastating global poison.”

“At about that time,” he continued, “several of us met with Linus Pauling in St. Louis and together drafted the petition, eventually signed by thousands of scientists worldwide.” The petition was part of the scientific underpinning for President John F. Kennedy’s proposal of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 — “the first of continuing international actions to fully cage the nuclear beast,” Dr. Commoner said.

As the founding director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems in St. Louis, he led a staff drawn from many disciplines in investigating, among other things, lead poisoning in slums, the ecology of ghetto rats, the economics of conventional versus organic farming, and the pollution of rivers by fertilizer leaching.

Dr. Commoner moved the center from St. Louis to Queens College in 1981. He remained in the thick of things, helping to set up New York City’s trash recycling program and defending it against critics like Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had declared the recycling law irresponsible.

In 2000, at 82, Dr. Commoner gave up the center’s directorship to concentrate on new research projects, including work on the effects of genetically altering organisms.

Waning Influence

By then he was no longer getting anything like the attention he had enjoyed in earlier times. Some experts had begun to think that his view of the planet, as a place harmoniously balanced by the trial and error of long evolution, left out too much complexity and too much potential for the unexpected.

Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, reviewing Dr. Commoner’s book “Making Peace With the Planet” for The Times in 1990, said that it “suffers the commonest of unkind fates: to be so self-evidently true and just that we pass it by as a twice-told tale.”

“Although he has been branded by many as a maverick,” Dr. Gould added, “I regard him as right and compassionate on nearly every major issue.”

Dr. Commoner married Ms. Feiner in 1980. He is also survived by two children, Lucy Commoner and Frederic, by his first wife, the former Gloria Gordon; and one granddaughter.

Dr. Commoner practiced what he preached. In his personal habits he was as frugal as a Yankee farmer, and as common-sensical. He drove or took taxis if the route by public transit took him far out of his way. On the other hand, he saw no need to waste electricity by ironing his shirts.

And when a Times writer once asked his Queens College office to mail some material, it arrived in an old brown envelope with the crossed-out return address of the botany department at Washington University — where he had last worked 19 years earlier.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

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COLORLINES: THE SCARY FACTS OF ROMNEY’S TAX PLAN

Politics Aside, There’s No Debating the Scary Facts of Romney’s Tax Policy

Pundits are applauding Romney’s performance in a deeply technical debate. But Imara Jones argues he revealed a troubling misunderstanding—or misrepresentation—of tax and health policies that keep the country afloat.

The 2012 Attack on Voting Rights Isn’t Racist—Just Ask Artur Davis

The black politico is the tea party’s new best friend, because he insists his colleagues in the Black Belt are the real threat to voting rights. Brentin Mock reports.

A Tech Innovation in Detroit: Connect People, Not Computers

Jamilah King reports from Motor City, where a stimulus-fueled tech revolution is underway–and in which organizers say the real innovations are offline.

VIDEO: Meet W. Kamau Bell and Deanna Zandt, Your Hosts for Facing Race 2012
The FX star takes a break from his new late-night comedy show to invite you to join us in Baltimore from Nov. 15-17.

On Sapelo Island, Another Case Study in How Black Exploitation Fuels Wealth
From Georgia to sub-Saharan Africa, inequity and exploitive land deals are making a handful of people rich—again.

Pennsylvania GOP Leader Insists Voter ID Opposition Is About ‘Lazy’ Voters
State Republicans keep saying things that confirm suspicions their voter ID push is about more than “integrity” at the polls.

Minnesota Voters Raise Their Diverse Voices for Voting Rights
Our community journalist Lolla Mohammed Nur describes how people of color are changing the narrative about the state’s voter ID amendment.

How Can You Be a Conscious Sports Fan?
Yes, sports and justice can work together. Here are three ways to make it happen.

Orlando Cruz Becomes First Openly Gay Man in Boxing
The featherweight Puerto Rican boxer made history today by describing himself as a “proud gay man.”

Junot Díaz Thanks ‘Teachers and Librarians’ for Genius Grant
Our Facing Race 2012 keynote speaker landed the MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious award this week.

Shonda Rhimes Teams Up With ‘Awkward Black Girl’ Issa Rae for New ABC Comedy
The heralded screenwriter turns out to be among thousands of fans of Rae’s Web TV show.

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HATEWATCH: A BURNING QUESTION: IS HETEROSEXUALITY ILLEGAL IN CALIFORNIA?

A Burning Question: Is Heterosexuality Illegal in California?

by Don Terry on October 3, 2012

The headline is sensational and does what headlines are supposed to do – it grabs your attention:

“California Bans Heterosexuality.”

After my initial shock, I settled down and read the story under the headline and quickly learned, to my great relief, that the Golden State hasn’t really banned heterosexuality – at least not yet.

The story turns out to be the latest anti-gay rant from Linda Harvey’s Columbus, Ohio-based website, Mission: America, whose subtitle is “Christian Commentary on the Culture.” Her outfit is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog.

In this case, the commentary is about California Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill on Saturday that made his state the first in the country to prohibit mental health providers from subjecting LGBT children and teens to therapy intended to change their sexual orientation.

“This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” The New York Times quoted the governor as saying in a statement after he signed the bill into law. “These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

Needless to say, Mission: America sees the bill in a much different light.

“California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a law that essentially removes choice for most teens with homosexual attractions, except to enter that sinful and high risk lifestyle,” the commentary says. “Counselors cannot warn them or steer them away from these desires.

“What’s next, ‘LGBT’ loyalty oaths?”

On her website, Harvey calls what she does a “media ministry’’ and an outgrowth of her “Christian faith and a successful career in journalism, marketing and public relations.” Her on-line bio goes on to say she founded Mission: America in 1995 as “a non-profit organization whose objective is to equip Christians with current, accurate information” – like California’s ban on heterosexuality? – “about cultural issues such as feminism, homosexuality, education and New Age influences.’’

Gathered together on the site, under the heading “The ‘Gay’ Agenda Targeting Youth,” are some of the many articles she has written about her fears of a gay planet. They include: “How Homosexual Friends Can Influence Our Kids,” “Protecting Youth Against Homosexuality: A Plan for Churches,” and “Grooming Kids in a ‘Gay’ Identity is Like Penn State Abuse.’’

Here’s another headline for you: “California Bans Heterosexual Bigots.” Come on, governor, the dustbin has plenty of room.

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