astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who became the sixth man on the moon when he and Alan Shepard helped NASA recover from Apollo 13's "successful failure" and later devoted his life to exploring physics, the mind, and unexplained phenomena such as psychics and aliens, has died in Florida. He was 85.

Mitchell died Thursday night at a West Palm Beach hospice after a short illness, his daughter, Kimberly Mitchell, said. Mitchell's passing coincides with the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission from Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971.

Mitchell, one of only 12 humans to set foot on the moon, was not a typical strait-laced astronaut: In later years, he said aliens visited Earth and faith healers were legit. He attempted to communicate telepathically with friends at home during his Apollo mission. He had an "epiphany" in space that focused him on studying physics and mysteries such as consciousness.

"What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness," Mitchell wrote in his 1996 autobiography. "It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me."

In an emailed statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called Mitchell, "one of the pioneers in space exploration on whose shoulders we now stand."

Mitchell's passion for exploration led him to become an astronaut, and he joined NASA in 1966. He helped design and test the lunar modules that first reached the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Shepard, the first American in space in 1961, picked Mitchell to be on Apollo 13's three-person crew. But they were bumped to the next mission so Shepard would have more time to train.

Apollo 13's astronauts were nearly killed when an oxygen tank exploded as they neared the moon in 1970. They made it home safely, but never set foot on the moon. A year later, Shepard, Mitchell and Stu Roosa were the first crew to try again amid falling support for the moon missions from President Nixon, Congress and the public.

"Had we blown it, had it failed for whatever reason, that would probably have been the end of the Apollo program right there," Mitchell said in 1997.

Fortunately, their mission, the third lunar landing and Mitchell's only trip in space, was a success.

Shepard collected about 95 pounds of samples in more than nine hours walking the lunar surface. They showed for the first time that astronauts could walk long distances on the moon, covering nearly two miles on their second expedition on the surface. That proved the crews of later missions could walk back to their spacecraft if the buggy-like Lunar Rover broke down.

Their mission was best known to the public because Shepard became the first and only golfer on the moon. Mitchell joked when Shepard duffed his first shot: "You got more dirt than ball that time." Less well known was that Mitchell made the only "javelin" throw on the moon when he tossed an unneeded metal rod.

But Shepard and Mitchell almost didn't make it to the surface because of problems in the lunar module.

First, a loose piece of metal in a switch triggered an abort signal as they prepared to travel down to the moon. Had the descent engine been on at the time, the module would have automatically aborted the landing. They traced the problem's cause by tapping on the switch with a flashlight and a pen.

Computer programmers back home wrote instructions to get around the abort problem and Mitchell entered them with just minutes to spare. Shepard later wrote that Mitchell remained "Mr. Unflappable" during the scare.

Once they started for the surface, though, the landing radar wasn't working correctly. Shepard and Mitchell agreed to take the dangerous and rule-breaking step of landing without radar, but didn't have to when the device started working just in time.

It was the telepathy experiment on the ride home that would give Mitchell notoriety. Even before he left, he told The Associated Press about his fascination with psychic phenomena and extrasensory perception and that he thought humans weren't the only intelligent life in the universe.

Those interests almost got him removed from the mission, said Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon and backup commander for Apollo 14. Cernan wrote in his autobiography that despite Mitchell's impeccable skills and vast intelligence, flight crew director Deke Slayton and Shepard were bothered with the fascination.

Mitchell claimed the experiment was a success, but most press reports dismissed him and some colleagues shunned him.

Edgar Dean Mitchell was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Hereford, Texas, and grew up working on his father's cattle ranch in New Mexico. He joined the Navy and got a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining NASA.

He left NASA in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which is dedicated to exploring the mysteries of the human mind and the universe. He also searched for ways to link the spirituality of religion with the hard facts of science.

In later years, he claimed the U.S. government covered up evidence that aliens had landed here. He also tried to prove that the supposed psychic spoon bender Uri Geller and faith healers were legit.

In 2011, he became embroiled in a legal fight with NASA over his plans to auction a 16mm camera he had brought home from the moon mission. The camera had been bolted to the l lunar module and would have been left on the moon if Mitchell hadn't removed it.

Although Mitchell contended it was a gift, NASA sued to stop the auction and eventually Mitchell agreed to donate it to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

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David Bowie has died after a battle with cancer, his representative confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. 

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” read a statement posted on the artist’s official social media accounts. 

The influential singer-songwriter and producer dabbled in glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during his eclectic 40-plus-year career. 

Bowie’s artistic breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, an album that fostered the notion of rock star as space alien. Fusing British mod with Japanese kabuki styles and rock with theater, Bowie created the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Three years later, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the No. 1 single “Fame” off the top 10 album Young Americans, then followed with the 1976 avant-garde art rock LP Station to Station, which made it to No. 3 on the charts and featured top 10 hit “Golden Years.”

Other memorable songs included 1983’s “Let’s Dance” — his only other No. 1 U.S. hit — “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” “Rebel, Rebel,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Panic in Detroit,” “Fashion,” “Life on Mars,” “Suffragette City” and a 1977 Christmas medley with Bing Crosby.

See More: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2015

With his different-colored eyes (the result of a schoolyard fight) and needlelike frame, Bowie was a natural to segue from music into curious movie roles, and he starred as an alien seeking help for his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s surreal The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Critics later applauded his three-month Broadway stint as the misshapen lead in 1980’s The Elephant Man.

Bowie also starred in Marlene Dietrich’s last film, Just a Gigolo (1978), portrayed a World War II prisoner of war in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), and played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). And in another groundbreaking move, Bowie, who always embraced technology, became the first rock star to morph into an Internet Service Provider with the launch in September 1998 of BowieNet.

Born David Jones in London on Jan. 8, 1947, Bowie changed his name in 1966 after The Monkees’ Davy Jones achieved stardom. He played saxophone and started a mime company, and after stints in several bands he signed with Mercury Records, which in 1969 released his album Man of Words, Man of Music, which featured “Space Oddity,” a poignant song about an astronaut, Major Tom, spiraling out of control.

In an attempt to stir interest in Ziggy Stardust, Bowie revealed in a January 1972 magazine interview that he was gay — though that might have been a publicity stunt — dyed his hair orange and began wearing women’s garb. The album became a sensation.

Wrote rock critic Robert Christgau: “This is audacious stuff right down to the stubborn wispiness of its sound, and Bowie’s actorly intonations add humor and shades of meaning to the words, which are often witty and rarely precious, offering an unusually candid and detailed vantage on the rock star’s world.”

Bowie changed gears in 1975. Becoming obsessed with the dance/funk sounds of Philadelphia, his self-proclaimed “plastic soul”-infused Young Americans peaked at No. 9 with the single “Fame,” which he co-wrote with John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar.

After the soulful but colder Station to Station, Bowie again confounded expectations after settling in Germany by recording the atmospheric 1977 album Low, the first of his “Berlin Trilogy” collaborations with keyboardist Brian Eno.

In 1980, Bowie brought out Scary Monsters, which cast a nod to the Major Tom character from “Space Oddity” with the sequel “Ashes to Ashes.” He followed with Tonight in 1984 and Never Let Me Down in 1987 and collaborations with Queen, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, The Pat Metheny Group and others. He formed the quartet Tin Machine (his brother Tony played drums), but the band didn’t garner much critical acclaim or commercial gain with two albums

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Singer Natalie Cole, the daughter of jazz legend Nat “King” Cole who carried on his musical legacy, has died.

Publicist Maureen O'Connor says Cole died Thursday night. She was 65. O'Connor had no details about how or where Cole died.

Cole had battled drug problems and hepatitis that forced her to undergo a kidney transplant in May 2009.

Cole’s 1991 album, “Unforgettable … With Love,” sold some 14 million copies and won six Grammys. It featured reworked versions of some of her father’s best-known songs.

On the title cut, “Unforgettable,” she sang along with her father’s taped version to create a memorable duet.

Nat “King” Cole died of lung cancer in 1965.

 annual pro football Hall of Fame ceremonies, there is a luncheon for members, new inductees, presenters and selectors. When Bears' defensive end Dan Hampton was inducted in 2002, I sat as a selector at a table with Hampton and his presenter, Ed O'Bradovich, another great Bears' defensive end.

Also at the table were Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen, Los Angeles Ramsdefensive tackle who made 14 consecutive Pro Bowls; Bob St. Clair,San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle nicknamed The Geek in part because he had a habit of eating raw meat; Jack Youngblood, Los Angeles Rams defensive end who played the 1979 playoffs with a broken fibula; and Dante Lavelli, Cleveland Browns receiver nicknamed Gluefingers.

All they did for most of the meal was tell stories about Doug Atkins, literally a legend among legends who died Wednesday at 85.

Atkins was 6-foot-8, 275 pounds, the size of Lebron James, huge for a defensive end today and freakish 63 years ago when Atkins began his 17-year NFL career. At Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, Atkins won a conference high jump title in track and field and was talked into playing football. The Cleveland Browns made him a first-round draft choice in 1953, but Lavelli confirmed that his iconoclastic personality "didn't mesh" with autocratic Browns coach Paul Brown.

So George Halas traded third and sixth-round draft choices for him in 1955 and Atkins was elected to eight Pro Bowls in 12 years in Chicago. One of the men Atkins replaced, outstanding pass rusher Ed Sprinkle, was 6-foot-1, 206 pounds.

St. Clair was 6-foot-9 himself, quite unusual for an offensive tackle, but he confirmed the unspoken strategy among all offensive linemen tasked with facing Atkins: "Don't make him mad."

In 1963 when the Bears won the NFL title, defensive coordinator George Allen turned Atkins loose, simply asking him, "Doug, where do you want to line up?"

"No question he was the strongest man in the world," said safety Richie Petitbon. "When he wanted to play, nobody could block him. In that year (1963), I think he knocked out eight quarterbacks. I mean they left the field, babe."

Fullback Rick Casares once said: "We used to hope that somebody would hold him. The next play you would see guys flying around like King Kong had gotten ahold of them. Awesome. I've seen him grab a tackle by the shoulder pads and just flip him over like a doll, then come in on a back that weighed 225 pounds without breaking stride and hit him in the chest, knock him over on his back, reach over, grab the quarterback by the shoulder pads and throw him down with one arm."

Quarterback sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, the year Atkins and Olsen were inducted into the Hall together, two years after the Rams' Deacon Jones was honored. Jones gets credit for inventing the term sack. Atkins estimates he had 25 in his best year, when teams passed fewer than 20 times a game in 12- and 14-game seasons.

Atkins' ability sometimes exceeded his output. He admitted he couldn't hurdle blockers on every play. Halas was at first reluctant to push his Hall of Fame candidacy because of spotty practice habits, but once elected, Halas called him the best he had ever seen.

Atkins argued that Halas didn't pay him enough to both practice and play and he missed only 17 games in 17 years, none during 12 seasons. When Halas sent him to the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967, he was already 37 years old but was so effective for three years despite injury that the Saints retired his number.

Thirty years ago, Atkins told me, "If they get a hangnail, they don't play now. They used to shoot us, put them needles to us and say, 'Go out there and just stand.'"

Doug Atkins

Atkins started playing when the health of pro football was more about its survival than about concussions, violence, personal behavior or the proper inflation of balls. With the Bears, Atkins forced Halas to hire a private detective to track player shenanigans, most of them victimless. Coaches refused to bed-check his room at training camp because he kept a pit bulldog named Rebel, "trained to kill," Petitbon said.

Defensive tackle Fred Williams once recalled, fuzzily perhaps, a martini-drinking contest in which he and Atkins stopped at 21. "But he drove home and carried me in so I always figured he won," Williams said.

O'Bradovich, who played opposite Atkins, once recalled the opening day of training camp when Atkins showed up 45 minutes late and circled the practice field wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and helmet with no chin strap or face mask. Halas ignored him. O'Bradovich later asked, "What the heck were you doing? Are you crazy?"

"I was breakin' in my helmet," Atkins explained.

Halas told me in 1977: "They say Doug was hard to handle. Paul Brown couldn't handle him in Cleveland. I could slough off anything. He didn't give me trouble, except when he'd get stiff and call me up at night."

"Doug was a nice guy but you were scared of him," said Mike Pyle, a third-year center in 1963 who died last July. "He nominated me for player representative. He said, 'I nominate Mike Pyle 'cause he's from Yale.' The rest of the players were asked, 'Anybody else?' Atkins said, 'Yeah, I move the nominations be closed.'"

Atkins' highest salary was $25,000. At his Hall of Fame induction, he said he once got into a heated argument with Halas over $500. "Coach Halas said if I give you that money you would only spend it. I said, 'Coach, that's what I want it for.'"

Despite his reputation, Atkins insisted, "I never liked the physical nature of the game. I always enjoyed payday best and after a game when we won." He also liked Halas. "I knocked him when I was playing for him, but he's a heckuva guy to go back and talk to," Atkins said.

Atkins worked a variety of jobs after retiring. Olsen stayed particularly close until his death in 2010. Confined to a wheelchair in later years, Atkins was afraid to undergo knee surgery.

"I have a few injuries like all the rest of the old football players," he said at his induction. "But to be selected to a group like this, it makes all those things worthwhile."

When Meadow George Lemon walked into the Ritz Theater in Wilmington, N.C., at age 11, he didn't have much going for him. He was born a second-class citizen in the Jim Crow South. His folks had split up, leaving his aunt and uncle to raise him - a skinny boy with a funny name "not at the top of anyone's priority list," as he later wrote. And, for a kid who looked forward to splurging 25 cents on westerns and adventure flicks, there was no clear way out.

Then, in the early 1940s, Lemon saw the newsreel that changed his life.

"The newsreel on this particular Saturday was about a new kind of team - a basketball team known as the Harlem Globetrotters," he later wrote. "The players in the newsreel were unlike any I had ever seen. . . . They laughed, danced, and did ball tricks as they stood in a 'Magic Circle' and passed the ball to a jazzy tune called 'Sweet Georgia Brown.' How they could play!" He added: "There was one other thing that was different about them, though. They were all black men. The same color as me."

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The man the world would come to know as Meadowlark Lemon - who died Sunday at 83, as the New York Times first reported - dreamed what seemed like an impossible dream: to play for the Globetrotters and conquer the globe. Yet, it came true.

"Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I've ever seen," basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, Lemon's onetime teammate, said in a television interview shortly before his death in 1999, as the Times reported. "People would say it would be Dr. J or even Jordan. For me, it would be Meadowlark Lemon."

Lemon began with virtually nothing: a basketball hoop fashioned out of an onion sack and a wire coat hanger nailed to a tree behind a neighbor's house. His ball was an empty Carnation evaporated milk can salvaged from the garbage.

Meadowlark Lemon

Eventually, these modest efforts let to greater things. Lemon was pulled out of a pickup game by a coach who saw his talent. The coach taught him the fundamentals - including the hook shot that would make Lemon famous.

Lemon, however, was loathe to give his mentor all the credit, saying he continued to work on the shot every day even after he perfected it.

"I learned to perfect the hook shot because I was taught by the very best coach I've ever known," he wrote in a 2010 memoir. ". . . It was me."

An all-state high school player, Lemon landed back in Wilmington after an unsuccessful stint playing at Florida A&M. He was considering joining the army in the middle of the Korean War when a high-school coach got him his dream shot: a tryout with the Globetrotters in Raleigh. In front of 15,000 people, Lemon played for a quarter-and-a-half and scored 12 points.

Though the Globetrotters were impressed, the team wasn't ready for him. So Lemon enlisted and, while serving in Austria, tried out again when the Globetrotters visited Europe. The result: a 40-game contract for a European tour that turned into a career as the "Clown Prince of Basketball" of the franchise that spanned two decades.

First lesson: Even on a team that valued spectacle over statistics, comedy isn't enough.

"The comedians were the ones who got cut first," Lemon said in 1977. "You first had to prove that you could play basketball, then you had to show that you could be funny."

Indeed, in the middle of the 20th century, the Globetrotters were more than a novelty act. When Lemon joined in 1954, the NBA had integrated just six years before. Owned by the very white, very Jewish Abe Saperstein - who embraced the novel idea, missed by many of his contemporaries, that some black people could actually play basketball - the team was a showcase for African American players, including Chamberlain, who played for a year with Lemon. Though sometimes criticized for its buffoonish image - for "Tomming for Abe," as detractors put it - in the civil rights era, the Globetrotters always had many defenders.

"I think they've been a positive influence," Jesse Jackson once said. ". . . They did not show blacks as stupid. On the contrary, they were shown as superior."

"I knew when I joined the team that they were one of the most important institutions in the world," Lemon wrote. "They had done more for the perception of black people and for the perception of America that almost anything you could think of." He added: "Some people say that the Globetrotters kept the NBA in business in its early years."

Amid the race politics, there was room for levity - a lot of it. In vaudevillian gags known as "reems," the Globetrotters would torture referees, fake injuries, line up in football or baseball formations, or douse one another with water. Lemon became the ringmaster of this circus, playing up to 10 games per week 2 million paying customers around the world per year. With the Globetrotters and a subsequent comedy basketball teams he formed, he played in an East German swimming pool and a Mexican bullfighting ring. He played before two popes and met President Reagan.

There was a cost. Lemon, the father of 10 children, missed a lot at home, where life was not always placid. Indeed, Lemon divorced his first wife, who was arrested in 1978 after a car chase between the unhappy couple ended with her stabbing him at 53rd Street and Second Avenue in New York.

"I have a lot of people I need to apologize to," Lemon said when he was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2003, saying sorry to his family for the Globetrotters punishing tour schedule.

As proud as Lemon was of his performance on the court, he was perhaps prouder of his performance in another arena: He was ordained as a minister in 1986, according to his website.

"I have been called the Clown Prince of Basketball, and an Ambassador of Good Will in Short Pants to the world, which is an honor," he wrote. "To be a child of God is the highest honor anyone could have."

In the end, he laid credit for all he had accomplished on the court and off at the feet of the almighty.

"God planted that dream in my heart as I sat right there in the Ritz Theater," Lemon wrote. "He gave me a relentless desire, determination, energy, and the talent to make my dream come true."

Allen Toussaint

Legendary New Orleans pianist, songwriter, producer and performer, Allen Toussaint, who penned such classics as “Working in a Coal Mine” and “Lady Marmalade,” has died after suffering a heart attack following a concert he performed in Spain. He was 77.

Rescue workers were called to Toussaint's hotel early Tuesday morning and managed to revive him after he suffered a heart attack, Madrid emergency services spokesman Javier Ayuso said. 
But Toussaint stopped breathing during the ambulance ride to a hospital and efforts to revive him again were unsuccessful, Ayuso said. Toussaint performed Monday night at Madrid's Lara Theater.

“He was a legend in the music world,” said Quint Davis, who produces the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Toussaint performed there so often — frequently as a headliner — that Davis said he referred to it as his “annual concert.”

Toussaint was born in New Orleans' Gert Town, a working class neighborhood of the city, where he lived in a “shotgun” house — so-called because you could stand at the front door and fire a shotgun through to the other side of the house.

He went on to become one of the city's most legendary and celebrated performers and personalities.

At first he worked as a producer for the New Orleans-based Minit Records in 1960 before being drafted in the Army for two years.

He later went on to create his own recording studio in 1973 with fellow songwriter Marshall Sehorn, called Sea-Saint Studio. There he worked with a succession of musicians including Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Patti LaBelle, Joe Cocker and Elvis Costello.

Toussaint has hundreds of hits to his name and received the Recording Academy Trustees Award during the 2009 Grammy Awards. He penned the 1966 Lee Dorsey classic “Working in a Coal Mine” and produced Dr. John's 1973 hit “Right Place, Wrong Time” and 1975's “Lady Marmalade” by the vocal trio Labelle.

In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's also a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2013 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama at a ceremony in Washington.

He worked with some of the greatest names in music: Irma Thomas, the Meters, Joe Cocker and the late Ernie K-Doe. Approaching 80, he was still active touring and performing.

He had been expected to perform a benefit concert along with longtime friend Paul Simon in New Orleans on Dec. 8 at Le Petit Theatre to raise money for the organization, New Orleans Artists Against Hunger And Homelessness.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 flooded not only his home but his legendary studio, forcing Toussaint to flee to New York. Davis, from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, said during Katrina he also lost most of his manuscripts, his gold records and the often elaborate outfits in which he performed onstage.

“You always saw Allen with a coat and tie and wearing sandals,” Davis said.

In New York, he focused largely on performing, often taking the stage at Joe's Pub on Lafayette Street in solo concerts. But like many New Orleanians, Toussaint was not able to stay away forever. Nearly eight years after Katrina, Toussaint returned permanently to the city of his birth and so much of his musical inspiration.

Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who from exile helped persuade the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, and then unsuccessfully tried to attain power as his country was nearly torn apart by sectarian violence, died on Tuesday at his home in Baghdad. He was 71.

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The cause was heart failure, Iraqi officials said.

Mr. Chalabi (pronounced CHAHL-a-bee) was the Iraqi perhaps most associated with President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and topple its longtime dictator, Saddam Hussein.

A mathematician with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Mr. Chalabi, the son of a prominent Shiite family, cultivated close ties with journalists in Washington and London; American lawmakers; the neoconservative advisers who helped shape Mr. Bush’s foreign policy; and a wide network of Iraqi exiles, many of whom were paid for intelligence about Mr. Hussein’s government.

Mr. Chalabi’s relationship with the Americans stretched over decades. In 1998, he helped persuade Congress to pass the Iraq Liberation Act, which was signed by President Bill Clinton and declared it the policy of the United States to replace Mr. Hussein’s government with a democratic one.

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His group, the Iraqi National Congress, would get more than $100 million from the C.I.A. and other agencies between its founding in 1992 and the start of the war. He cultivated friendships with a circle of hawkish Republicans — Dick Cheney, Douglas J. Feith, William J. Luti, Richard N. Perle and Paul D. Wolfowitz — who were central in the United States’ march to war, Mr. Cheney as vice president and the others as top Pentagon officials.

Mr. Chalabi’s contention, shared by United States intelligence agencies, was that Mr. Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Hussein had fatally gassed Kurds and slaughtered Shiites and other Iraqis, and he had refused to fully cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.

But most of the case for war was predicated on flawed intelligence, including the testimony of several defectors whose accounts could ultimately not be substantiated.

A 2006 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that “false information” from sources affiliated with Mr. Chalabi’s group, the Iraqi National Congress, “was used to support key intelligence community assessments on Iraq and was widely distributed in intelligence products prior to the war.” It found that the group “attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq by providing false information through defectors directed at convincing the United States that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to terrorists.”

Probably the most notorious defector was Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, code-named Curveball, the brother of a Chalabi aide. His false account of mobile bioweapons laboratories was cited by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at the United Nations. But the Senate report found an “insufficient basis” to determine whether Curveball had provided his information at the behest of the Iraqi National Congress.

Mr. Janabi was just one of several defectors whose accounts were promoted by Mr. Chalabi’s group: Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami and Abu Zeinab al-Qurairy claimed that Islamist terrorists had trained in the mid-1990s at a camp in Iraq called Salman Pak; Khidhir Hamza said that Mr. Hussein had tried to build a nuclear weapon in the early 1990s; and Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri told The New York Times that he had visited at least 20 secret weapons facilities in Iraq.

The Times said in a 2004 editors’ note that “accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted,” and that “we, along with the administration, were taken in.”

 

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Ahmad Chalabi: 1944-2015

James Glanz, a former Baghdad correspondent for The New York Times, recounts past encounters with Ahmad Chalabi, who helped persuade the United States to invade Iraq and then unsuccessfully tried to attain power.

 By AXEL GERDAU and EMMA COTT on Publish DateNovember 3, 2015. Watch in Times Video »

As it became clear that Iraq did not have an active chemical, biological ornuclear weapons program, and as the occupying American forces did not receive the welcome that the Iraqi opposition had predicted, the Bush administration distanced itself from Mr. Chalabi.

One year after the invasion, American special forces raided his home in Baghdad, apparently searching for evidence that he was sharing intelligence with Iran.

Mr. Chalabi was the target of an assassination attempt at least once, in 2008, when a suicide bomber narrowly missed him, killing six of his bodyguards.

Spurned by the Americans, Mr. Chalabi allied himself with Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite leader and ally of Iran whose Mahdi Army led two bloody uprisings, and who remains a significant force in Iraqi politics.

“Chalabi’s life work, an Iraq liberated from Saddam Hussein, a modern and democratic Iraq, is spiraling toward disintegration,” Dexter Filkins wrote in The Times Magazine in 2006, after interviewing Mr. Chalabi at his home in London, where he was on vacation. “Indeed, for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster.”

Under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Mr. Chalabi led a committee that essentially ejected Sunnis from positions of authority. That helped set the stage for a new Sunni insurgency, which some experts say metastasized into the Islamic State, the militant group that now controls a large portion of territory in Iraq and Syria.

As recently as last year, Mr. Chalabi’s name was floated as a candidate for prime minister, and at his death he was the head of the finance committee in Parliament.

New York Yankees icon, and Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi Berra has died at the age of 90 late Tuesday night. The Yogi Berra Museum was first to break the news, which was confirmed by MLB.

On the field, Berra was regarded as one of the greatest catchers of all time. Over his 19-year playing career, Berra hit .285/.348/.482, with 358 home runs. He made 15 straight All-Star games and won three MVP awards during his 18 seasons with the Yankees.

 

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Berra appeared in 14 World Series as a player, winning 10 of them. Both of those figures are a major-league record. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972. The Yankees also retired Berra's No. 8 that same year.

Following his retirement, Berra was named the Yankees manager. He initially lasted just one season with the club, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series in seven games. After he was fired, Berra joined the Mets as a coach. He actually appeared in four games in 1965 with the team before finally transitioning into a full-time coach with the team.

Berra would eventually manage four seasons with the Mets, taking them to the World Series in 1973. The team lost in seven games. With the Mets, Berra compiled a 292-296 record. The Yankees brought him back aboard in 1984, but Berra didn't last long. He was fired just 16 games into the 1985 season after the team got off to a slow start. In seven seasons as a manager, Berra compiled a 484-444 record.

All of those accomplishments, however, might be overshadowed by Berra's vivacious personality off the field. Berra is responsible for a number of famous quotes about the game, including "it ain't over till it's over." He also said "baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical," and "love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too." 

Berra's confusing quotes were the focus on a couple of ad campaigns, including this 1987 commercial for Miller Lit

Moses Malone, a three-time NBA MVP and one of basketball's most ferocious rebounders, died Sunday. He was 60.

Det. Jeffrey Scott of the Norfolk, Virginia Police Department confirmed that Malone died in a Norfolk hotel room. He said there was no indication of foul play. Malone's body was discovered when he failed to report to a celebrity golf tournament in which he was scheduled to play.

Malone was part of the 76ers' 1983 NBA championship team, and the club said he will "forever be remembered as a genuine icon and pillar of the most storied era in the history of Philadelphia 76ers basketball."

See more from Moses Malone's life in the gallery below:

A 6-foot-10 center who made the leap right from high school to the pros, Malone is the NBA's career leader in offensive rebounds and led the league in rebounds per game for five straight seasons from 1980-85.

Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and attended the induction ceremonies for the year's class in Springfield, Massachusetts this weekend before returning to his native Virginia.

Drafted by the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974, Malone went on to play for eight NBA clubs and was the league's MVP in 1979 and 1982 while playing for the Houston Rockets.

"Everyone in the organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Moses Malone," Rockets owners Leslie Alexander said. "Moses was a true gentleman and one of the great Rockets — and greatest NBA players — of all time. He will be forever missed. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends."

Malone joined the 76ers the following season and added his third MVP award while leading the 76ers to that championship after making his famed "Fo', Fo', Fo'," prediction that the Sixers would win their playoff series in four-game sweeps.

"No one person has ever conveyed more with so few words — including three of the most iconic in this city's history," 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil said. "His generosity, towering personality and incomparable sense of humor will truly be missed."

Harry Volkman

Harry Volkman

Over a legendary television career spanning more than 50 years and four Chicago stations, Harry Volkman was a popular, trusted and respected weather forecaster who brought wisdom, warmth and wit to the science of meteorology.

He also made history: In 1952 he was the first weatherman to issue a “tornado alert” during a live broadcast, prompting a change of government policy and saving many lives.

Volkman, who was 89, died Thursday surrounded by family at Oakton Pavillion nursing home in Des Plaines, according to his son, Eddie Volkman, the Chicago radio personality. He had spent several weeks at Edward Hines, Jr., Veterans Administration Hospital west of Chicago for treatment of a respiratory ailment before he was released August 14.

“It was a peaceful passing,” Eddie Volkman said. “Over the last several weeks, he said he was tired, he was ready, and he understood that he had lived longer than any of his older brothers, who all died before they were 80. He was very spiritual about it.

“He had nice words for everybody in the family, and he was still encouraging to me. ‘You’re not done entertaining people,’ he told me. ‘I’d sure like to see you get a job somewhere,’ ” Eddie Volkman said.

Tom Skilling and Harry Volkman (2011)

Tom Skilling and Harry Volkman (2011)

“In the field of broadcast meteorology, Harry was a force of nature,” said Tom Skilling, chief meteorologist at Tribune MediaWGN-Channel 9. “He took such joy in seeing young people coming into our profession and launching their own careers, and he was there to nurture their efforts. He took genuine pride in their success. You had the sense their success brought him joy — and this wasn’t an act — it really did.”

Skilling was 13 when he first met Volkman, who designated the west suburban Aurora teen one of his young weather observers and became a professional mentor and lifelong friend.

“It would be impossible to even guess how many young lives he touched through his school talks and the visits he hosted to his office,” Skilling said. “Everyone should have the joy of having known someone as wonderful as Harry Volkman. I’ve met many people in the field of meteorology, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone any kinder.”

Generations of viewers recognized Volkman’s trademark boutonniere, usually received after one of his countless appearances at local schools. He also was famous for punctuating his forecasts with vocal sound effects (“whooosh”) and an uncanny recall of historical minutiae.

Harry Volkman (1959)

Harry Volkman (1959)

After a decade on the air in Oklahoma, Volkman came to Chicago in 1959 to join WMAQ-Channel 5.Despite a sometimes rocky relationship with anchorman Floyd Kalber, the two dominated the 10 p.m. news ratings at the NBC-owned station for years. Volkman later worked for WGN, CBS-ownedWBBM-Channel 2 (where he spent 18 years) and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. He reluctantly retired in 2004 after the Fox station dropped him from weekends. “I’m certainly not ready to go out to pasture,” he said at the time.

Born April 18, 1926, just outside of Boston, young Harry ran a tiny radio station out of his home in Somerville, Massachusetts. Serving as an artillery specialist during World War II, Volkman had to calculate the wind’s effect on artillery shells so that accuracy could be maintained. He studied math and physics at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and meteorology at Tulsa University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before joining KOTV-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January 1950.

Just weeks after moving to WKY-TV in Oklahoma City in 1952, he tapped into weather data from nearby Tinker Air Force Base and became aware of an impending tornado.

“Up to this time the alerts were only to be used for military bases, as the civilian authorities did not believe that enough was known about tornado forecasting to make it trustworthy and feasible,” Volkman would later recall. “There was much official concern about causing panic among the civilian population.

“As I was the new young weatherman on the scene, I was told that it was my duty to go on the air and announce, for the first time, a tornado risk area in central Oklahoma. I quickly informed my boss, P.A. ‘Buddy’ Sugg, that this might be illegal and we could be arrested. His immediate response was that they could arrest him, but not me, as I would only be obeying his order

A (AP) — Julian Bond, a leading figure from the 1960s civil rights movement who served as chairman of the NAACP after a long career in politics, died Saturday, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75.

Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, after a brief illness, the center said in a statement released Sunday.

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew to be a major force in the campaign for racial equality. Often seen at the forefront of protests against segregation, Bond later pursued a lengthy career in politics and academia but never ceded his position as a civil rights icon.

President Barack Obama issued a statement Sunday calling Bond "a hero."

"Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life," Obama said.

Bond burst into the national consciousness after helping to start the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee — where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Stokely Carmichael and John Lewis. As the group grew into an important force that advocated for social change, the young Bond dropped out of Morehouse College in Atlanta to serve as the committee's communications director.

Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965 and stepped into the national spotlight after being refused his seat because of his anti-war stance on Vietnam. The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which ruled in his favor. Bond took his seat in 1967.

In 1968, he led a delegation to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where his name was placed in nomination for the vice presidency but he declined because he was too young.

He served in the Georgia House until 1975 and then served six terms in the Georgia Senate from 1975 to 1986. He also served as president of the SPLC from its founding in 1971 to 1979 and was later on its board of directors.

In 1998, Bond was elected as board chairman of the NAACP, serving for 10 years.

Former Ambassador Andrew Young said Bond's legacy would be as a "lifetime struggler."

"He started when he was about 17 and he went to 75 and I don't know a single time when he was not involved in some phase of the civil rights movement."

Intellectual and telegenic, Bond was known for his even emotional keel, and could be depended upon not to lose his cool even in the most emotional situations, Young said.

"I could usually find when everybody else was getting worked up, I could find in Julian a cool serious analysis of what was going on," Young said.

Bond was a "visionary" and "tireless champion" for civil and human rights, the SPLC said.

"With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice," SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. "He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all."

Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney; his five children, Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Michael Julian Bond, Jeffrey Alvin Bond, and Julia Louise Bond; his brother, James Bond; and his sister, Jane Bond Moore.

"You can use the term giant, champion, trail blazer — there's just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian Bond," said Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alabama.

"A voice that has been silenced now is one that I just don't think you can replace," Jones said.

Frank Gifford

 

 

 

 

NFL Hall of Famer and broadcaster Frank Gifford has died at 84, family says.

From the football field to the broadcast booth, Frank Gifford was a star. And a winner.

An NFL championship in 1956 with the New York Giants. An Emmy award in 1976-77 as television's "outstanding sports personality." Induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in '77.

Gifford, as well known for serving as a buffer for fellow announcers Don Meredith and Howard Cosell on "Monday Night Football" as for his versatility as a player, died Sunday. He was 84.

We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being.- Gifford family statement

"Frank Gifford was an icon of the game, both as a Hall of Fame player for the Giants and Hall of Fame broadcaster for CBS and ABC," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Frank's talent and charisma on the field and on the air were important elements in the growth and popularity of the modern NFL."

In a statement released by NBC News, his family said Gifford died suddenly at his Connecticut home of natural causes Sunday morning. His wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a host for NBC's "Today."

"We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being," his family said in the statement. "We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers."

A running back, defensive back, wide receiver and special teams player in his career, Gifford was the NFL's MVP in 1956. He went to the Pro Bowl at three positions and was the centerpiece of a Giants offense that went to five NFL title games in the 1950s and '60s.

Beginning in 1971, he worked for ABC's "Monday Night Football," at first as a play-by-play announcer and then as an analyst.

Later in life he stayed in the spotlight through his marriage to Kathie Lee Gifford, who famously called him a "human love machine" and "lamb-chop" to her millions of viewers.

"He was a great friend to everyone in the league, a special adviser to NFL commissioners, and served NFL fans with enormous distinction for so many decades," Goodell added.

Frank Gifford

Gifford hosted "Wide World of Sports," covered several Olympics — his call of Franz Klammer's downhill gold medal run in 1976 is considered a broadcasting masterpiece — and announced 588 consecutive NFL games for ABC, not even taking time off after the death of his mother shortly before a broadcast in 1986.

"Frank Gifford was an exceptional man who will be missed by everyone who had the joy of seeing his talent on the field, the pleasure of watching his broadcasts, or the honor of knowing him," said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.

"His many achievements were defined by a quiet dignity and a personal grace that is seldom seen in any arena; he truly embodied the very best of us."

While he worked with others, including Dan Dierdorf, Al Michaels, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson, Gifford was most known for the eight years he served as a calming influence between the folksy Meredith and acerbic Cosell.

cComments
  • Oddly enough, I was just reading last night about Johnny Carson busting into a secret apartment rented by his second wife to confront her and her extramarital fling, Frank Gifford. http://deadspin.com/the-night-johnny-carson-found-out-his-wife-was-banging-1442056831
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    AT 11:06 PM AUGUST 09, 2015
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In its early years the show was a cultural touchstone, with cities throwing parades for the visiting announcers and celebrities such as John Lennon and Ronald Reagan making appearances.

"I hate to use the words 'American institution,' but there's no other way to put it, really," Gifford told The Associated Press in 1993. "There's nothing else like it."

A straight-shooter who came off as earnest and sincere, Gifford was popular with viewers, though some accused him of being a shill for the NFL.

He experienced the highs and lows as a player. Gifford fumbled twice early in the 1958 NFL championship game, both of which led to Baltimore Colts touchdowns, and later came up short on a critical third down. The Colts eventually won 23-17 in the league's first overtime game, which helped popularize the NFL and was dubbed "The Greatest Game Ever Played," although not by Gifford.

"Not my greatest game," Gifford told the AP in 2008. "I fumbled going out (of the end zone) and I fumbled going in."

Gifford had his best year in 1956, rushing for 819 yards, picking up 603 yards receiving and scoring nine touchdowns in 12 games. The Giants routed the Bears 47-7 at Yankee Stadium, where Gifford shared a locker with Mickey Mantle.

"Frank Gifford was the ultimate Giant," co-owner John Mara said. "He was the face of our franchise for so many years."

A crushing hit by 233-pound Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in November 1960 flattened Gifford and likely shortened his football career. Bednarik was pictured standing over the unconscious Gifford, pumping his fist in a celebration thought by many to be over the top. Gifford was in the hospital for 10 days and sidelined until 1962.

Born Aug. 16, 1930, in Santa Monica, Calif., Frank Newton Gifford was the son of an itinerant oil worker. Growing up in Depression-era California, Gifford estimated he moved 47 times before entering high school, occasionally sleeping in parks or the family car and eating dog food.

Gifford's 5,434 yards receiving were a Giants record for 39 years, until Amani Toomer surpassed him in 2003. His jersey number, 16, was retired by the team in 2000.

When he wasn't on the field, Gifford tried to put his movie-star good looks to use in Hollywood, appearing in about a dozen films, most notably the 1959 submarine movie "Up Periscope."

N (AP) — Canada-born opera singer John Vickers, nicknamed "God's tenor" for his inimitable voice and strong Christian beliefs, has died. He was 88.

The Royal Opera House opera cited a statement from Vickers' family, which said he died Friday after a struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1926, Vickers sang as a child in church choirs but originally aspired to study medicine. He turned to music full-time after winning a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Vickers made his Royal Opera debut in 1957. A year later, he performed at Germany's Bayreuth festival, going on to become one of the world's leading performers of Richard Wagner, acclaimed for roles including Siegmund in "Die Walkuere."

From 1960 on, he was a regular at New York's Metropolitan Opera, where his signature roles included Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes."

Vickers was a standout among dramatic tenors for the intensity of his performances and his richly powerful voice, described by critic John Ardoin as "holding a hundred colors and inflections."

"Art is a wrestling with the meaning of life," Vickers once said, and his strong faith informed his artistic choices.

Despite his association with the works of Wagner, he found the German composer — whose anti-Semitism made him a favorite of the Nazis — morally objectionable. In 1977, Vickers pulled out of a production of Wagner's "Tannhauser," saying he considered it anti-Christian.

For three decades Vickers performed around the world, collecting devoted fans, numerous honorary degrees, companionship in the Order of Canada and two Grammy Awards.

Vickers retired in 1988. His wife, Henrietta, died in 1991. He is survived by a sister, five children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Roger Rees, a Tony-winning character actor perhaps best known for playing Kirstie Alley's snooty British suitor on the sitcom "Cheers," died Friday in New York City. He was 71.

The Welsh-born actor was a veteran of the London and New York stage and had been co-starring with Chita Rivera in the Kander and Ebb musical "The Visit" on Broadway until withdrawing in late May due to illness.

Rees won the Tony for Best Actor in a Play in 1982 for the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby," a marathon eight-and-a-half-hour, two-part production.

ovie epics, "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago," died Friday. He was 83.

Sharif died of a heart attack in a Cairo hospital, his longtime agent, London-based Steve Kenis, and the head of Egypt's Theatrical Arts Guild, Ashraf Zaki, told The Associated Press. The actor had been suffering from Alzheimer's.

Sharif was Egypt's biggest box-office star when director David Lean cast him in 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia." But he was not the director's first choice to play Sherif Ali, the tribal leader with whom the enigmatic T.E. Lawrence teams up to help lead the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

'Lawrence of Arabia'

Lean had hired another actor but dropped him because his eyes weren't the right color. The film's producer, Sam Spiegel, went to Cairo to search for a replacement and found Sharif. After passing a screen test that proved he was fluent in English, he got the job.

His entrance in the movie was stunning. He was first seen in the distance, a speck in the swirling desert sand. As he drew closer, he emerged first as a black figure on a galloping camel, slowly transforming into a handsome, dark-eyed figure with a gap-tooth smile.

The film brought him a supporting-actor Oscar nomination and international stardom.

Three years later, Sharif demonstrated his versatility, playing the leading role of a doctor-poet who endures decades of Russian history, including World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, surviving on his art and his love for his beloved Lara in "Dr. Zhivago."

Lean's adaptation of the Boris Pasternak novel had a rocky beginning in its first U.S. release. Attendance was sparse and reviews were negative.

After MGM removed it from theaters and Lean re-edited the sprawling tale, it was re-released and became a box-office hit. Still, Sharif never thought it was as good as it could have been.

"It's sentimental. Too much of that music," he once said, referring to Maurice Jarre's luscious Oscar-winning score.

Although Sharif never achieved that level of success again, he remained a sought-after actor for many years, partly because of his proficiency at playing different nationalities

.

TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest man, a retired educator from Japan, has died at the age of 112.

An official from the city of Saitama said Tuesday that Sakari Momoi died from kidney failure Sunday at a nursing home in Tokyo.

Momoi was born Feb. 5, 1903, in Fukushima prefecture, where he became a teacher. He later moved to Saitama, north of Tokyo, and served as a high school principal until retirement.

Momoi was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest man in August 2014, when he was 111.

Another Japanese man, 112-year-old Yasutaro Koide of Nagoya, succeeds Momoi as the world's oldest man, according to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.

The world's oldest person is an American woman, 116-year-old Susannah Mushatt Jones of Brooklyn, New York.

 was just a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange when he faced the challenge of a lifetime. Traveling with a friend to Czechoslovakia in 1938, as the drums of impending war echoed around Europe, Nicholas Winton was hit by a key realization.

The country was in danger and no one was saving its Jewish children.

Winton would almost single-handedly save more than 650 Jewish children from the Holocaust, earning himself the label "Britain's Schindler." He died Wednesday at age 106 in a hospital near Maidenhead, his hometown west of London, his family said.

Winton arranged trains to carry children from Nazi-occupied Prague to Britain, battling bureaucracy at both ends and saving them from almost certain death. He then kept quiet about his exploits for a half-century.

Sir Nicholas Winton

His daughter, Barbara, said she hoped her father would be remembered for his wicked sense of humor and charity work as well as his wartime heroism. And she hoped his legacy would be inspiring people to believe that even difficult things were possible.

"He believed that if there was something that needed to be done you should do it," she said. "Let's not spend too long agonizing about stuff. Let's get it done."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said "the world has lost a great man." Jonathan Sacks, Britain's former chief rabbi, said Winton "was a giant of moral courage and determination, and he will be mourned by Jewish people around the world."

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin said Winton will be remembered as a hero from "those darkest of times."

"(He) was a man who valued human life above all else, and there are those who are alive today who are testament to his dedication and sacrifice," Rivlin said.

Born in London on May 19, 1909, to parents of German Jewish descent, Winton himself was raised as a Christian.

Late in 1938, a friend contacted him and told him to cancel the skiing holiday they had planned and travel instead to Czechoslovakia.

Alarmed by the influx of refugees from the Sudetenland region recently annexed by Germany, Winton and his friend feared — correctly — that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis and that its Jewish residents would be sent to concentration camps.

While some in Britain were working to get Jewish intellectuals and communists out of Czechoslovakia, no one was trying to save the children — so Winton took that task upon himself.

Returning to Britain, Winton persuaded British officials to accept children, as long as foster homes were found and a 50-pound guarantee was paid for each one to ensure they had enough money to return home later. At the time, their stays were only expected to be temporary.

Sir Nicholas Winton

Setting himself up as the one-man children's section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Winton set about finding homes and guarantors, drawing up lists of about 6,000 children, publishing pictures to encourage British families to agree to take them.

The first 20 children arrived by plane, but once the German army reached Prague in March 1939, they could only be brought out by train.

In the months before the outbreak of World War II, eight trains carried children from Czechoslovakia through Germany to Britain. In all, Winton got 669 children out.

The largest evacuation was scheduled for Sept. 3, 1939 — the day that Britain declared war on Germany. That train never left, and almost none of the 250 children trying to flee on it survived the war.

The children from Prague were among some 10,000 mostly Jewish children who made it to Britain on what were known as the Kindertransports (children's transports). Few of them would see their parents again.

Although many more Jewish children were saved from Berlin and Vienna, those operations were better organized and better financed. Winton's operation was unique because he worked almost alone.

"Maybe a lot more could have been done. But much more time would have been needed, much more help would have been needed from other countries, much more money would have been needed, much more organization," Winton later said.

He also acknowledged that not all the children who made it to Britain were well-treated in their foster homes — sometimes they were used as cheap domestic servants.

"I wouldn't claim that it was 100 percent successful. But I would claim that everybody who came over was alive at the end of the war," he was quoted as saying in the book about the Kindertransports "Into the Arms of Strangers."

Several of the children he saved grew up to have prominent careers, including filmmaker Karel Reisz, British politician Alf Dubs and Canadian journalist Joe Schlesinger.

Winton served in the Royal Air Force during the war and continued to support refugee organizations. After the war, he became involved in numerous other charitable organizations, especially in Maidenhead.

A keen fencer who lost his chance to compete at the Olympics because of the outbreak of World War II, Winton worked with his younger brother Bobby to found the Winton Cup, still a major team fencing competition in Britain.

But for almost 50 years, Winton said nothing about what he had done before the war. It only emerged in 1988 when his wife Grete found documents in the attic of their home.

"There are all kinds of things you don't talk about, even with your family," Winton said in 1999. "Everything that happened before the war actually didn't feel important in the light of the war itself."

Winton's wife persuaded him to have his story documented. It became well-known in Britain after the BBC tracked down dozens of "Nicky's Children" and arranged an emotional reunion on prime-time television.

A film about his heroism, "Nicholas Winton — The Power of Good," won an International Emmy Award in 2002. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair praised him as "Britain's Schindler," after German businessman Oskar Schindler, who also saved Jewish lives during the war.

Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 and also honored in the Czech Republic, where last year he received the country's highest state honor, the Order of the White Lion.

"He was a person I admired for his personal bravery," said Czech President Milos Zeman.

A statue of Winton stands at Prague's central station, while a statue commemorating the children of the Kindertransport is a popular sight at London's Liverpool Street Station.

Winton continued to attend Kindertransport events in Britain and the Czech Republic well beyond his 100th birthday.

Still, he rejected the description of himself as a hero, insisting that unlike Schindler, his life had never been in danger.

"At the time, everybody said, 'Isn't it wonderful what you've done for the Jews? You saved all these Jewish people,'" Winton said. "When it was first said to me, it came almost as a revelation. Because I didn't do it particularly for that reason. I was there to save children."

Winton's wife Grete died in 1999. He is survived by his daughter Barbara, his son Nick and several grandchildren

Incredibly, the London native had more than 275 credits on IMDb, making him perhaps the most prolific feature-film actor in history. He did many of his own stunts, likely appeared in more on-screen swordfights than anyone else and was the only member of the Lord of the Rings cast to have actually met author J.R.R. Tolkien, who was born in 1892.

With his gaunt 6-foot-5 frame and deep, strong voice, Lee was best at playing characters — slave traders, crazed kings, vampires, demented professors — who were evil, murderous, dour and unrepentantly ruthless.

Starting with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958), Lee, like a mad scientist, helped Hammer Films bring the genre of horror back to life. He played the bloodsucking and brooding Prince of Darkness 10 times but disliked being known as a "horror legend."

Lee was menacing in the title role of The Mummy (1959) and, that same year, starred as the new owner of Baskerville Hall in the remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring his best friend,Peter Cushing, as Sherlock Holmes. The suave and courtly Cushing was his castmate in Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula as well.

He appeared three times as Holmes on screen, most recently in the 1991 telefilm Incident at Victoria Falls, and starred as the detective's brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970).

Lee also was Rasputin and Lucifer, and his characters executed King Charles I of England and Louis the XVI of France. He relished the evil roles: "As Boris Karloff [his Corridors of Blood co-star] told me, you have to make your mark in something other actors cannot, or will not, do. And if it's a success, you'll not be forgotten."

His 1977 autobiography was titled Tall, Dark and Gruesome.


BAGHDAD (AP) — Tariq Aziz, the debonair Iraqi diplomat who made his name by staunchly defending Saddam Hussein to the world during three wars and was later sentenced to death as part of the regime that killed hundreds of thousands of its own people, has died in a hospital in southern Iraq, officials said. He was 79.

Aziz died on Friday afternoon after he was taken to the al-Hussein hospital in the city of Nasiriyah, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, according to provincial governor Yahya al-Nassiri. Aziz had been in custody in a prison in the south, awaiting execution.

Aziz was the highest-ranking Christian in Saddam's regime was the international face of Saddam's regime for years. He was sentenced in October 2010 to hang for persecuting members of the Shiite Muslim religious parties that now dominate Iraq.



A Baghdad government official confirmed the death of Aziz. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The only Christian among Saddam's inner circle, Aziz's religion rescued him from the hangman's noose that was the fate of other members of the top regime leadership.

After he was sentenced to death, the Vatican asked for mercy for him as a Christian. Iraq's president at the time, Jalal Talabani, then refused to give the death sentence his required signature, citing Aziz's age and religion.

But even before the death sentence, the ailing Aziz appeared to know that he would die in prison. He had had several strokes while in custody undergoing trial multiple times for various regime crimes.

"I have no future. I have no future," Aziz told The Associated Press, looking frail and speaking with difficulty because of a recent strokes, in a jailhouse interview in September 2010. At that stage, he had been sentenced to more than two decades in prison.

"I'm sick and tired but I wish Iraq and Iraqis well," he said.

Elegant and eloquent, Aziz spoke fluent English, smoked Cuban cigars and was loyal to Saddam to the last, even naming one of his son's after the dictator. His posts included that of foreign minister and deputy prime minister, and he sat on the Revolutionary Command Council, the highest body in Saddam's regime.

His main role was as the regime's go-to man to communicate with the West. To the world, he was one of the most recognizable faces from Iraq during Saddam's rule: silver haired, with a mustache and trademark dark-rimmed glasses. A skilled operator in the halls of the United Nations, he was the regime's front-man in dealing with U.N. inspectors trying to track and assure the dismantling of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

His interlocutors variously described him as courtly, articulate, arrogant and unhesitant to make even the most preposterous denials of evidence put before him by inspectors about weapons programs.

"He didn't agree with our basic tasks and I didn't agree with his tasks to hide and mislead us. But I think we respected each other," Rolf Ekeus, head of the inspectors from 1991 to 1997, later said of Aziz.

As bombs rained down on Baghdad during the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, Aziz said of American forces, "We will receive them with the best music they have ever heard and the best flowers that have ever grown in Iraq ... We don't have candy; we can only offer them bullets."

His freedom ended shortly afterward. The U.S. military knocked on his door in Baghdad on April 24, 2003, and he surrendered without resistance.

Still, his prominence as an international spokesman — and his outsider status as a Christian in a Sunni Muslim-dominated regime — gave supporters fuel to argue that he was not a real decision-maker in Saddam's regime and was less to blame in the torture and bloody crackdowns it inflicted on Iraqis.

Aziz was born to a Chaldean Catholic family in Tell Kaif, Iraq, in 1936. He studied English literature at Baghdad College of Fine Arts and became a teacher and journalist. He joined the Baath Party in 1957, working closely with Saddam to overthrow British-imposed monarchy.

Saddam took charge in 1979. Aziz was deputy prime minister a year later, when attackers hurled a grenade at him in downtown Baghdad. Several people were killed; Aziz was injured. It was one of several attacks Saddam blamed on Iran — part of his justification for the expulsion of large numbers of Shiite Muslims and Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran.

Aziz was instrumental in restoring diplomatic relations with the United States in 1984, after a 17-year break. At the time, Washington backed Iraq as a buffer against Iran's Islamic extremism.

That changed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Aziz met in January 1991 with then-Secretary of State James A. Baker in Geneva in a failed attempt to prevent the Gulf War, and the U.S. broke off ties with Saddam's government for good. He also met with the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican just weeks before the March 2003 invasion in a bid to stop it.

Years later in court, Aziz again defended Saddam.

A star defense witness for his former boss in 2006, a thin and pale-looking Aziz in checkered pajamas — a far cry from the designer suits he once sported — insisted Saddam had no choice but to crack down in the Shiite town of Dujail after a 1982 shooting attack on the president's motorcade there blamed on Shiite opponents.

"If the head of state comes under attack, the state is required by law to take action," said Aziz.

And in the trial of six former Saddam officials charged with the 1980s crackdown on Kurds that killed an estimated 100,000 people, Aziz claimed, "There was no genocide against the Kurds ... Those defendants were honest officers who defended their country and fought Iran."

Aziz himself stood trial in seven cases — nearly all on charges of crimes against humanity related to Saddam's campaigns against Shiite political parties and Kurds. He was convicted in all but two, and sentenced to death by hanging in October 2010 for his involvement in the former regime's bloody persecution of Shiites.

As his death verdict was read in court, Aziz sat alone and quiet, and grasped a handrail surrounding the defendant's box. By that time, he had suffered a stroke in jail that had left him badly weakened and temporarily mute.

But even as he was ordered executed, Aziz gained a powerful diplomatic ally. The Vatican asked that Aziz's life be spared, saying mercy would encourage reconciliation and the rebuilding of peace and justice in Iraq. The Vatican's plea picked up support among several other European diplomats from nations that also oppose the death penalty — though few had made much pressure to stop earlier executions of other, Muslim members of Saddam's regime.

Aziz's wife, Violet, and two sons, Ziad and Saddam, who live in Jordan and survive him, had lobbied he be allowed medical treatment outside Iraq. Ziad Aziz said his father had long suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, but his health took a turn for the worse shortly before the 2003 invasion.

Bruce Graham, architect of Willis Tower and John Hancock Center, dies at age 8

Bruce Graham, the hard-driving architect of the Willis Tower, once the world’s tallest building, and the John Hancock Center, the X-braced giant that became a symbol of Chicago's industrial might, died Saturday at his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., about 100 miles north of Miami.

 

He was 84 years old. The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said his son George.

 

At the peak of his influence, from the 1960s through the 1980s, Graham was the top man at Chicago’s biggest architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and had the ear of the city’s leading business leaders and politicians. From that power base, he shaped a legacy that suggests the epitaph on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, who is buried in his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London: “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.”

 

Besides the Willis (originally Sears) Tower and the Hancock Center, which bracket the Chicago skyline like enormous black parentheses, Graham played a major role in designing such landmark Chicago structures as the Inland Steel Building, Three First National Plaza, One Magnificent Mile and the 1986 expansion of McCormick Place.

 

And Graham’s impact extended beyond individual designs. Though his name is often linked with the planning for the aborted 1992 Chicago World’s Fair, he helped produce the visionary Chicago 21 plan of 1973, which led to such improvements as the Museum Campus.

 

“He was the Burnham of his generation,” said the Chicago architectural historian Franz Schulze, referring to the legendary Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham.

 

Graham’s best designs lent a Chicago-style muscularity to the lean, crisp modernist look brought to perfection by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

 

Sears Tower and the Hancock Center became pop icons, their dark, big-boned look featured on everything from postcards to television news sets. In one measure of its broad-based appeal, the Hancock was nicknamed “Big John,” after London’s “Big Ben.”

 

Reviewing Sears Tower in 1974, the late Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp called the skyscraper “a building whose exterior profiles are a bold, vital and exciting departure from orthodox mediocrity; a finely engineered piece of sculpture, even if its interior is largely nondescript in the big-corporation manner.”

 

Graham’s detractors, who at first included Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman (the two later became allies), termed Graham a businessman rather than an artist. Yet few disputed that Graham was the most powerful Chicago architect of his generation or that he was a leader, along with the SOM structural engineer Fazlur Khan, in shaping supertall structures that were unthinkable to old-fashioned architects wielding T-squares.

 

Soaring more than a quarter of a mile into the sky, the 1,451-foot, 110-story Sears Tower epitomized Graham’s technical prowess. It reigned as the world’s tallest building from 1973, when construction workers raised a beam autographed by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley to the top of its structural framework, to 1996, when it lost its title to the spire-topped Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Chicago high-rise remains the nation’s tallest building.

 

Though Graham was slim and had a kindly, craggy expression, he invariably was described as tough, as forceful as a steamroller. At SOM, the office credo was: “If you disagree with Graham, shut up.”

 

Graham designed corporate headquarters, universities, hotels and other buildings in London, Barcelona,

Philip Coppens, 1971-2012

12/31/2012

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Philip Coppens, the shaggy-haired speculator whose European accent and irrepressible enthusiasm for all things ancient and mystical made him a mainstay of the Ancient Alienscable television series, died yesterday in Los Angeles following a brief battle with a rare form of cancer. Coppens had only recently finished filming interviews for the fifth season of Ancient Aliens when he sought treatment for an illness that was eventually diagnosed as angiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood or lymphatic vessel walls.

Coppens, 41, is survived by his wife Kathleen McGowan as well as a body of work that spans multiple nonfiction books, documentaries, and (as coauthor) one novel.

Coppens’ close friend and fellow Ancient Aliens regular Giorgio A. Tsoukalos reported his death on Twitter yesterday afternoon, and Coppens' Twitter feed later confirmed the news. In previous days, Tsoukalos had asked Coppens’ fans to use mental telepathy to cure Coppens’ cancer.

In a blog post published December 16, Coppens expressed his hope that he would be well enough to visit the Egyptian pyramids in preparation for a planned book on their construction. Coppens wrote that in the days leading up to the Maya calendar entering the thirteenth baktun he expected ancient knowledge to provide “insights into life, its value and especially its magical qualities, in the hope that with only a few days before December 21, people, through choice, will embrace a positive change in their life and travel onwards to the next level of their mission, which is the only reason why we have chosen to incarnate here on this lovely, blue water planet.”

Coppens was born Filip Coppens in Belgium on January 25, 1971. He became an investigative journalist and later moved to Scotland, where he lived many years. At the age of 23, he served as the editor of a manuscript on European megaliths by the Belgian historian Marcel Mestdagh, who had died in 1990. Coppens gained from the experience an appreciation of alternative interpretations of history. For a time he endorsed Mestdagh’s eccentric view that Atlantis was headquartered at the site of the French city of Sens, along the English Channel.

In 1995, Coppens became one of the first English-language journalists to report on the existence of pyramids in China, in an article in Australia’s Nexus magazine, which he claimed as his first major alternative history scoop. Coppens’ article closely followed a 1994 book on the pyramids by fellow ancient astronaut writer Hartwig Hausdorf, later translated as The Chinese Roswell in 1998. The Chinese pyramids, under their former identification as burial mounds, were known to scholars since at least 1914 but were not widely discussed outside scholarly circles. 

Also in 1995, Coppens founded Frontier 2000, a European magazine devoted to alternative history and esoteric mysteries. The magazine was distributed in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Coppens’ big break came in 1998 when he served as the principle researcher for The Stargate Conspiracy (1999), one of the most influential alternative history books of the 1990s. Written by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, the book argued that Western intelligence agencies and power brokers were involved in a fifty-year conspiracy to direct Western belief systems on behalf of what these powerful individuals believed to be space aliens posing as the gods of ancient Egypt, who in turn were in communication with psychics and cult leaders.

For the next ten years, Coppens wrote articles about ancient astronauts and alternative history, many posted online, as well as a series of books on subjects ranging from ancient astronauts to alternative archaeology to alternative views of Western religions. Most of these books were published by small presses in the United States and England. Nearly all of his books discussed Coppens’ pervasive belief in wide-ranging conspiracies designed to suppress knowledge and keep the public at large ignorant of what he viewed as the true nature of history. One of his most recent works, the 2012 ebook Killing Kennedy, titled to tie in with the 2012 Bill O'Reilly book of the same name, alleged a massive conspiracy and cover-up surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Throughout his early work, Coppens portrayed himself as an honest broker who sought the truth wherever he found it. In many of his early articles published online, he criticized the more extreme aspects of the ancient astronaut theory, the belief that space aliens influenced early human civilization. In his 2000 article “Dogon Shame,” published in theFortean Times, Coppens claimed that “new evidence” demonstrated that Robert Temple’s 1976 claim that the Dogon tribe of Africa received special knowledge of astronomy from space aliens was wrong. Coppens’ “new evidence” was anthropologist Walter van Beek’s investigation of the Dogon’s star lore—from 1991. The article fully endorsed the claims of the Stargate Conspiracy that Temple was under the influence of the conspiracy representing the alien gods. In the article, Coppens did not reveal his connection to the book, a breach of traditional journalism ethics.

Coppens’ reputation as an honest broker had the ironic effect of limiting his appeal through the mid-2000s, a fallow period for alternative history and ancient astronaut speculation. He was too skeptical for most believers and too credulous for most skeptics. In these lean years after the collapse of the alternative history wave of the 1990s, only the most extreme believers maintained a significant following, and Coppens changed with the times. It was in these years that he anglicized his professional moniker from Filip to Philip. He tried his hand at writing guides to Dan Brown’s popular 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and tie-in nonfiction titles exploring Code mysteries related to the Templars and the Holy Grail. 

Everything changed for him in 2009 when the History Channel commissioned a two-hour documentary entitled Ancient Aliens. This special proved so popular that it spawned a companion series, now in its fifth season. As one of the featured talking heads on the documentary series, Coppens used his television platform to transform himself from an obscure writer to one of the top tier “ancient astronaut theorists,” as the program described him. On Ancient Aliens, Coppens discussed topics ranging from pyramid secrets to time travel to the extraterrestrial origins of religion, often abandoning the carefully qualified language of his books for outright endorsements of alien contact.

In his final years, Coppens used his television celebrity to promote a series of books designed to tie in to Ancient Aliens, including The Ancient Alien Question (2011), as well as tie-in DVDs keyed to his books and television appearances. To the very end, Coppens’ English-language written work never lost the unusual grammar and European sentence structure attributable to his Belgian upbringing—a somewhat anomalous situation for someone with so many English language publications to his credit.

Coppens portrayed himself as a deep thinker and a tireless investigator of world mysteries. His written work, however, tended to avoid original analysis in favor of journalistic reportage of other alternative writers’ various hypotheses and extensive summaries of their evidence. His articles, too, tended toward reporting what others had investigated. In some cases, this resulted in preventable errors; in other cases, Coppens’ reliance on secondhand sources led to serious misinterpretations of evidence that undermined his more expansive claims about ancient history.

In the last few years Coppens came to the conclusion that ancient aliens were actuallyspiritual visitors from another dimension, essentially gods. He also concluded that multiple lost civilizations had high technology ten or twenty thousand years ago. Coppens could point to no physical evidence to support either proposition, instead relying on secondhand interpretations of ancient texts and myths, some of which he manifestly misunderstood. 

(Readers of this blog will remember that Coppens severely criticized me for pointing out his misunderstanding of ancient Egyptian texts.)

Coppens also frequently accused academics, scholars, and skeptics of participating in a conspiracy to suppress historical truth. “It is far more effective,” he wrote, “to introduce lies into the historical records – lies which will forever be quoted as proof, for they are, after all, part of the historical records, not? (sic)” This was, he said, “a methodology that continues to be practiced to this very day” as part of a “vociferous and vile campaign” by scholars and skeptics.

In the end, Philip Coppens was a minor light in the alternative history firmament, a status reflected in his choice of book topics, which frequently tried to tie-in to other, more popular books. Robert Temple took the night’s brightest star, Sirius, for his masterwork,The Sirius Mystery, and Coppens settled for Canopus, the second brightest star, as the subject of his Canopus Revelation. Although his work will not long outlive him because it lacked the combination of arrogance and audacity that defines the most memorable ancient astronaut books, Coppens was the rare alternative author who seemed to genuinely have a real interest in the mysteries he wrote about and a desire to tie them to actual texts and artifacts, no matter how badly he misunderstood them or how far short of solid proof his investigations fell. For that he will be missed.

Oldest former #Bears player passes away at age 97; John Siegal helped team win 3 NFL titles in '40s.

John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie "A Beautiful Mind," has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86.

Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed in a taxi crash Saturday, state police said. A colleague who had received an award with Nash in Norway earlier in the week said they had just flown home and the couple had taken a cab home from the airport.

Russell Crowe, who portrayed Nash in "A Beautiful Mind," tweeted that he was "stunned."

"An amazing partnership," he wrote. "Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts."

Known as brilliant and eccentric, Nash was associated with Princeton University for many years, most recently serving as a senior research mathematician. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for his work in game theory, which offered insight into the dynamics of human rivalry. It is considered one of the most influential ideas of the 20th century.

Just a few days ago, Nash had received a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo with New York University mathematician Louis Nirenberg, who said he'd chatted with the couple for an hour at the airport in Newark before they'd gotten a cab. Nirenberg said Nash was a truly great mathematician and "a kind of genius."

"We were all so happy together," Nirenberg said. "It seemed like a dream."

John David Stier, Nash's son with his first wife, said he learned of the death Sunday morning. "It's very upsetting," he said.

In an autobiography written for The Nobel Foundation Web site, Nash said delusions caused him to resign as a faculty member at M.I.T. He also spent several months in New Jersey hospitals on an involuntary basis.

However, Nash's schizophrenia diminished through the 1970s and 1980s as he "gradually began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking," he wrote.

The 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind" won four Oscars, including best picture and best director, and generated interest in John Nash's life story. The movie was based on an unauthorized biography by Sylvia Nasar, who wrote that Nash's contemporaries found him "immensely strange" and "slightly cold, a bit superior, somewhat secretive."

Much of his demeanor likely stemmed from mental illness, which began emerging in 1959 when Alicia was pregnant with a son. The film, though, did not mention Nash older son or to the years that he and Alicia spent living together after divorcing. The couple split in 1963, then resumed living together several years later and finally remarried in 2001.

Born in Bluefield, W. Va., to an electrical engineer and a housewife, Nash had read the classic "Men of Mathematics" by E.T. Bell by the time he was in high school. He planned to follow in his father's footsteps and studied for three years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), but instead developed a passion for mathematics.

He then went to Princeton, where he worked on his equilibrium theory and, in 1950, received his doctorate with a dissertation on non-cooperative games. The thesis contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the Nash equilibrium.

Nash then taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for several years and held a research post at Brandeis University before eventually returning to Princeton.

A Princeton spokesman did not immediately comment.

4:10 p.m. ET

Marques Haynes, arguably one of the Harlem Globetrotters' all-time best players, died on Friday in Plano, Texas, at age 89, The Dallas Morning Newsreports.

Haynes first signed on with the Globetrotters in 1948, for $400 per season. He quite nearly became the NBA's first black player in 1950, but missed that opportunity due to disagreements with the Globetrotters' owner. However, Haynes still became the first Globetrotter inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1998.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

"A guy asked me a long time ago if I ever thought I'd get into the NBA Hall of Fame," Haynes told Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky in 2007. "My answer was: 'The world is my Hall of Fame.'"

The world was also Haynes' stage: Considered one of the best ball handlers in history, Haynes played before fans in 97 countries, in more than 12,000 games.

 Extreme athlete Dean Potter knew the risks every time he flew off a cliff with a parachute.

He lost a friend to a BASE jumping accident last year and spoke about the death-defying nature of the sport at that friend's memorial service.

"He always recognized how dangerous the sport was and at the same time, how magical it was — the tension between those two things," fellow climber Chris McNamara said.

Potter, renowned for his daring and sometimes rogue climbs and BASE jumps, was one of two men killed after jumping from a 7,500-foot promontory in Yosemite National Park.

Someone called for help late Saturday after losing contact with Potter, 43, and his climbing partner, Graham Hunt, 29.

Park ranger Scott Gediman said rescuers looked for the men overnight but couldn't find them. On Sunday morning, a helicopter crew spotted their bodies in Yosemite Valley.

The men wore wing suits — skintight suits with batwing sleeves and a flap between their legs — to help them glide. However, parachutes designed to slow their descent had not been deployed, Gediman said.

BASE jumping, in which people parachute from a structure or cliff, is illegal in all national parks. It's possible the men jumped at dusk or at night to avoid being caught.

"BASE jumping is the most dangerous thing you can do ... every time you jump it's a roll of the dice," said Corey Rich, a photographer who documented some of Potter's feats. "The odds are not in your favor, and sadly, Dean pulled the unlucky card."

Potter and Hunt, who lived near Yosemite, were prominent figures in the park's climbing community, Gediman said.

"This is a horrible incident, and our deepest sympathies go out to their friends and family," Gediman said. "This is a huge loss for all of us."

Potter is famous for pushing the boundaries of climbing by going up some of the world's most daunting walls and cliffs alone, using his bare hands and without ropes. He took the sport to an extreme level with highlining — walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations while wearing a parachute for safety in case of a fall.

He drew criticism in May 2006 after he made a free solo climb of Utah's iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Though it was not illegal, outdoor clothing company Patagonia stopped sponsoring him, saying his actions "compromised access to wild places and generated an inordinate amount of negativity in the climbing community and beyond."

Potter defended his ascent, saying his intention was to inspire people to "get out of their cars and experience the wild with all their senses."

Clif Bar withdrew its sponsorship of Potter and four other top climbers last year, saying they took risks that made the company too uncomfortable to continue financial support.

In recent years, Potter combined his love of climbing and flying with BASE jumping. He produced a film that chronicled his adventures BASE jumping with his beloved dog, Whisper. The miniature Australian cattle dog was not with him on the fatal jump.

In 2009, he set a record for completing the longest BASE jump from the Eiger North Face in Switzerland by staying in flight in a wingsuit for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. The feat earned him the Adventurer of the Year title by National Geographic magazine.

Potter indicated in his writings that he knew the inherent danger of the sport. Last March, his friend and climbing partner Sean "Stanley" Leary died in Zion National Park in Utah after apparently clipping a rock outcropping during a BASE jump. Potter was among a group of people who recovered Leary's body.

"Though sometimes I have felt like I'm above it all and away from any harm, I want people to realize how powerful climbing, extreme sports or any other death-consequence pursuits are," he wrote in an October 2014 blog post on his website. "There is nothing fake about it whether you see it in real life, on YouTube or in a glamorous commercial."

Gediman estimates that about five BASE jumping deaths have occurred in Yosemite. He said he watched a BASE jumper leap to her death in 1999 when her chute failed to open.

 

Chuck Bednarik with Green Bay’s Paul Hornung (5) and Jim Taylor (31) after the Eagles won the N.F.L. championship game. CreditJohn Iacono

Chuck Bednarik, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Hall of Fame center and linebacker, one of the last N.F.L. players to commonly play on both offense and defense and a legendary football tough guy, died Saturday in Richland, Pa. He was 89.

The Eagles said he died at an assisted living center after a brief, unspecified illness.

They called him Concrete Charlie, and while Bednarik worked during his off-seasons as a salesman for a concrete company, the nickname perfectly captured his fearsome presence as a jarring blocker at center and a thunderous tackler at middle linebacker.

Playing for the Eagles from 1949 to 1962, Bednarik missed only three games, and two of those came at the outset of his rookie season.

Bednarik was famous for flattening the Giants’ star Frank Gifford in a 1960 game, then celebrating his ferocious hit — a gesture captured in an enduring photograph.

A two-time All-American at Penn, he played in eight Pro Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. The N.F.L. selected him as the center for its 50th anniversary team in 1969, and he was elected that year to the College Football Hall of Fame. The Chuck Bednarik Award is presented annually to college football’s best defensive player.

Photo

Chuck Bednarik was one of the last N.F.L. players to commonly play on both offense and defense.CreditAssociated Press

At age 35, Bednarik was in on every play, except for Eagles kickoffs, when Philadelphia defeated Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, 17-13, in the 1960 N.F.L. championship game. Bednarik tackled the Packers’ fullback Jim Taylor just inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line as he headed for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, then sat on top of him to keep the Packers from running another play.

“You can get up now, Jim, this game is over,” Bednarik told Taylor as the Eagles captured their first league championship since his rookie season of 1949.

Gifford did not get up when Bednarik leveled him with a blindside tackle to his chest after he caught a pass from quarterback George Shaw in the closing minutes of a November 1960 game at Yankee Stadium with the Eagles and Giants battling for the Eastern Conference championship.

Gifford suffered a deep concussion when his head snapped back as he hit the turf and fumbled. Bednarik waved his arms and shook his fists as the Eagles recovered the ball, and they went on to a 17-10 victory.

The photo of Bednarik exulting alongside a prone Gifford became one of pro football’s most famous images. But Bednarik later maintained he was unaware that Gifford was seriously hurt, saying he was celebrating because “we knew he had the game won.” He sent a basket of fruit to Gifford at his hospital bed.

“I didn’t bear him any resentment and never have,” Gifford said in his 1994 memoir, “The Whole Ten Yards,” written with Harry Waters. “His tackle had been perfectly legal.”

Bednarik was 6 feet 3 and 235 pounds or so, impressive size for a linebacker of his era, his brawn matched by football savvy.

“Dick Butkus was the one who manhandled people,” the Eagles’ former defensive back Tom Brookshier told Sports Illustrated in 1993, recalling the Chicago Bears’ rugged middle linebacker. “Chuck just snapped them down like rag dolls.”

“He had such a sense for the game,” Brookshier said. “You could do all that shifting and put all those men in motion, and Chuck still went right where the ball was.”

Charles Philip Bednarik was born on May 1, 1925, in Bethlehem, Pa. His father, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, was a laborer for Bethlehem Steel.

After playing high school football, Bednarik joined the Army Air Forces and flew 30 bombing missions over Europe in World War II as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator.

He began his career at Penn as a freshman late in the 1945 season and played all 60 minutes, intercepting two passes, in a 34-7 loss to unbeaten Army in November 1946. He was an All-American in 1947 and again in 1948, when he finished third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy awarded to college football’s leading player.

The Eagles selected Bednarik as the first pick in the 1949 N.F.L. draft and he played on a championship team led by Steve Van Buren at halfback and Pete Pihos at end. Bednarik won a second championship in 1960 on a team that also featured Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback. Bednarik had been playing mostly at center by then, but when an outside linebacker was hurt, he went in on defense as well in the late-season games and then the title game with the Packers.

Bednarik was a longtime chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, which oversees boxing and wrestling in the state.

He is survived by his wife, Emma; their daughters Charlene Thomas, Donna Davis, Carol Safarowic, Pam McWilliams and Jackie Chelius; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Bednarik remained a favorite with Eagles fans long after his playing days, and the team retired his No. 60 in 1987. When the Eagles chose their 75th-anniversary team in September 2007, he was honored as the best center and middle linebacker in the team’s history in a ceremony at Lincoln Financial Field.

As he once recalled it, the moment transcended football even for one of its roughest-hewn figures.

“On that day,” he said, “I felt like Benjamin Franklin.”

Correction: March 29, 2015 

An obituary last Sunday about the Philadelphia Eagles’ Hall of Fame center and linebacker Chuck Bednarik misstated, in some editions, the name of the stadium where the Eagles honored their 75th-anniversary team, which included Bednarik, in September 2007. It is Lincoln Financial Field, not Franklin Field.

 Former Chicago Bears linebackerDoug Buffone, whose reputation for being a passionate football player carried over into his career as a sports broadcaster, was found dead Monday in his home, according to police.

Paramedics and police were summoned to Buffone's home on Chicago's West Side and found a 70-year-old man dead due to natural causes, said police spokesman Thomas Sweeney. The man was later identified as Buffone, who played 14 seasons for the Bears.

Buffone retired after the 1979 season with 24 career interceptions, the most for any Bears linebacker. He also held the team's record for most games played with 186.

"Today is a sad day for Bears nation," said former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who like Buffone played his entire career with the team. "We lost one of our greats. Doug Buffone will be missed."

A native of Yatesboro, Pa., Buffone was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bears in 1966 out of Louisville.

In addition to the 24 interceptions, Buffone had 10 fumble recoveries, nine forced fumbles and 37 sacks. He had 1,257 tackles, going over the 100 tackle mark in seven seasons.

Bears chairman George McCaskey noted that Buffone's relationship with the team's fans continued beyond his playing days.

"It drove him nuts when we didn't play well, and we always appreciated that he wore his heart on his sleeve because we knew how much he cares," McCaskey said in a statement.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka said Buffone had a lot of passion for the team, adding he has "nothing but great memories about him."

In a statement, Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, who played alongside Buffone on the Bears for seven years, said a "great man" was lost.

"I will always remember him for his football talent, sense of humor and enduring friendship," Butkus said. "He was a very special guy."

Buffone in recent years hosted a Bears postgame radio show on WSCR-AM with former teammate Ed O'Bradovich.

"His was a life really well lived," WSCR-AM broadcaster Dan Bernstein said. "He understood how important it was to go out of your way to appreciate your family and the good things that you have."

Bernstein said he has encountered former football players who were bitter about what they had to sacrifice.

"That bitterness never, ever was there with Doug, ever," he said.

"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who never lost his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite years of playing on losingChicago Cubs teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

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The Cubs announced Banks' death but did not provide a cause.

"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time," Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, said in a statement released by the team. "He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known.

"Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."

Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, "It's a great day for baseball. Let's play two!'' That finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

The Cubs paid tribute to Banks on the Wrigley marquee Friday night:

Although he played in 14 All-Star Games from 1953 to '71, Banks never reached the postseason, and the Cubs finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons. Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and selected to baseball's all-century team in 1999.

Banks' infectious smile and nonstop good humor despite his team's dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history.

One famous admirer, "Saturday Night Live" star Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray. Former major league outfielder Dale Murphy, in a tweet Friday night, said: "Did a card show w Ernie Banks. He drove the promoter crazy! Spent time/talked with every person. After an hour had signed maybe 15."

Banks' No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs from the left-field foul pole at Wrigley Field.

"I'd like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers," he once said. "That was what I always wanted to do."

News of Banks' death quickly spread throughout the sports world Friday night, with major league teams, former greats and current players taking to social media to express their condolences.

 few 20th-century musicians were able to combine the roles of game-changing, creative, innovative virtuoso and beloved popular entertainer. Within this tiny elite group, BB King ranks second only to the late Louis Armstrong, who not only charmed the world with his jovial, winning personality but virtually invented the concept of the jazz soloist, and on whose broad shoulders all successors stood. Who else is there? Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and, of course, the Beatles in general and Paul McCartney in particular.

Genius and popularity alone are not enough: despite their brilliance, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis were too taciturn, too mysterious and too sharp-clawed for an audience to feel entirely comfortable and relaxed in their presence. BB King’s impact on the way blues guitar – and, by extension, rock guitar – is played to this very day is immeasurable. It is impossible to imagine how Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Albert King, Freddie King (both of whom dropped their birth surnames in favour of BB’s), Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore or Joe Bonamassa, to name but a few, might have played had BB King never existed.

Yet his instrumental virtuosity and the seamless interaction between the liquid, vocal tone he conjured from the numerous Gibson semi-acoustic guitars that have borne the nickname “Lucille” over the past six-and-a-half decades and his warm, chesty singing (“First I sing and then Lucille sings”) was only one part of the reason for his pre-eminence not only in his chosen field of the blues but in the broader expanse of the past musical century’s popular mainstream. BB King was also one of the planet’s consummate entertainers; his expansive stage presence, enveloping generosity of spirit, patent willingness to drive himself into the ground for his audiences and ability to put virtually any crowd at their ease took him from the backbreaking labour and harsh racism of the rural Southern states to the biggest stages of the world’s capital cities. As an old man he would duet on Sweet Home Chicago with Barack Obama at a gala blues concert in the White House. Along the way, he collected enough awards, trophies and honorary degrees to fill a small warehouse and was the subject of a biographical documentary feature, The Life of Riley, narrated by Morgan Freeman.

And, for what it’s worth, that “nice guy” bit was no mere act: 65 years in the business and absolutely no-one ever had a bad word to say about him. His generosity to peers and protégés alike was as much the stuff of legend as his manifest talents. For much of his performing life he averaged 300 shows a year and devoted any energy left over after each performance to meet and greet his fans until utter exhaustion set in. No wonder he was taken to the world’s collective heart in a manner unlike any blues artist before or since; no wonder he was called “The Chairman of the Board of Blues Singers.”

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And yet, and yet, and yet … it was perhaps unsurprising that a man in his 80s who was drastically overweight and struggling with type 2 diabetes should have to slow down and acknowledge a decline in his once-formidable powers. For some time, he had been seated on stage rather than standing up; his concert schedule, which would have been intimidating for a performer half his age and weight, had been reduced to a mere 100 or so gigs a year, and he had not released a new album of fresh recordings since 2008’s One Kind Favor. 

When he played the Royal Albert Hall in June 2011, I wrote: “As his 86th birthday looms, BB King remains King of the Blues, with Buddy Guy, at a mere 75, as his heir. No surprise, then, that a long line of distinguished guests showed up at the Al to pay affectionate tribute and help the ancient titan shoulder the weight of a two-hour show: please meet and greet Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Ron Wood, Slash and (to sing some of the lyrics BB can no longer remember) Mick Hucknall.

“Also no surprise: the set is no longer a stately procession through 60-odd years of greatest hits, but more a combination of party, informal jam session and family visit to a mischievous, cantankerous but benevolent granddad. Forgetting lyrics (and even the names of some of his long-serving band-members) and occasionally starting a lick on the wrong fret of his guitar, BB’s immaculate comic timing turned each potential embarrassment into an endearing gag … The voice is still miraculous, once it’s cranked up, and that guitar tone is still authoritatively unmistakable. He roared through The Thrill Is Gone, Sweet Sixteen and Rock Me Baby, caught all the rock guitarists out with the tricky chord changes of the glutinous Vegas ballad Guess Who and made his triumphant exit to – shades of Louis Armstrong – When the Saints Go Marching In.

“Losing the plot? Maybe. But he’s still BB King ... and nobody else is.”

 BB King Live in Africa

Despite all attempts to put the most positive possible spin on the evening, the occasion was still somewhat dispiriting. The Big B had become a magnificent ruin, like the Coliseum or the Sphinx: a monument to be visited not in the hope of seeing it as it was in its halcyon days, but to marvel at the fact that it was still here and, indeed, that such something so marvellous existed in the first place. Last year, a concert at St Louis’s Peabody Opera House disintegrated into an outright debacle, with BB actually getting heckled as he rambled and stumbled through a formless attempt at recapturing former glories.

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BB had always claimed that he would continue to perform as long people still wanted to see him, but by the end it had come to seem as if neither mind nor body were any longer equal to the task. He had the admiration of his peers, the affection of much of the world and an eight-figure bank account, none of which were anything less than fully deserved and thoroughly earned. Maybe he should have made the decision to take it easy at last: to rest on his considerable laurels and spend his last years taking pleasure in a lifetime’s achievement: a job well done.

In 2010, he and Buddy Guy recorded an affecting duet entitled Stay Around a Little Longer. If only he could have been able to take his own advice: then he might have celebrated his 90th birthday this September by putting his feet up, secure in his extraordinary legacy and enjoying the knowledge that what he has left us is, for all practical purposes, immortal.

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