Sir Roger Moore, 1927-2017

Roger Moore, famous for his portrayals of master spy James Bond and master criminal Simon Templar, is dead at 89, reports the BBC.

Sir Roger's family confirmed the news on Twitter, saying he had died after "a short but brave battle with cancer". The statement, from his children, read: "Thank you Pops for being you, and being so very special to so many people."
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Roger Ailes dead at 77

Roger Ailes, the disgraced former Fox News chief and accused sexual harasser, is dead at 77. His wife, Elizabeth Ailes, released a short statement, as published by The Washington Post:

“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many,”

Ailes founded the network in 1996, steering it to supremacy over cable TV rivals and providing conservative viewers with a sympathetic source of news and opinion. He was forced to leave last year amid the organization's still-roiling sexual abuse scandal, which has also claimed the jobs of his successor, Bill Shine, and star anchor Bill O'Reilly.

Update: Aaron Stewart-Ahn found a flattering photo of Ailes to remember him by. Read the rest

Man dies after bathtub phone charger shock

Phone chargers usually only deliver a few volts of juice at a feeble amperage, but they'll deliver a lot more if you give them the chance. The BBC writes that a UK man died in the bathtub after being shocked by a charger connected to an extension cord.

Richard Bull, 32, died when his iPhone charger made contact with the water at his home in Ealing, west London. A coroner ruled his death was accidental and plans to send a report to Apple about taking action to prevent future deaths. Safety campaigners have warned about the dangers of charging mobiles near water following the inquest. Mr Bull is believed to have plugged his charger into an extension cord from the hallway and rested it on his chest while using the phone, the Sun reports.

Those little switching power supplies won't save you when wet. The bottom line, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents: "any appliance attached to the mains electricity circuit is dangerous near water." Read the rest

Assassination of Kim Jong-nam captured on surveillance video

Doesn't look like they thought they were pranking him.

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Richard Hatch of 'Battlestar Galactica' has died. He was 71.

Richard Hatch, who starred in the original television science fiction series 'Battlestar Galactica' and the mid-2000s reboot, died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1979 for his performance as Captain Apollo in the iconic science fiction series.

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Investigators uncover identity of mystery man found dead on remote moor

Last year I blogged about the mysterious death of a man found on a remote English moor. Found with only a pocketful of pills and no identifying documents, "Dovestones" sent investigators hunting worldwide in search of answers. They found them: Dovestones was 67-year-old Londoner David Lytton.

Officers identified the smartly dressed man in CCTV footage from Ealing, west London, where he is believed to have started his journey on the morning of 11 December. He arrived in Manchester shortly after midday after taking a train from London Euston, then went to Greenfield, Saddleworth, and visited the Clarence pub at 2pm, where he asked the landlord how to get to the top of the 460-metre (1,500ft) Indian’s Head peak above Dovestone reservoir.

Despite being warned about treacherous weather conditions by the landlord, Mel Robinson, he left the pub and was spotted by witnesses walking up the hill at about 4.30pm.

His body was found the next morning by a passing cyclist on a boggy section of track. He was wearing slip-on shoes and had £130 in cash in his pockets, along with three train tickets, including a return ticket to London. He was carrying no documentation.

The mystery of how and why he died near a mountaintop remains. The suicide hypothesis, based reasonably enough on the presence of strychnine in his body, seems solid. But why travel all the way from Pakistan? Why there? Read the rest

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 1929–2016

Photo: Scott Beale (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, with permission; see the full set)

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey died Friday at 87. He quit medical school after encountering synthesizers to spend his life making beautiful sounds with them. Frequent collaborator Dana Countryman writes:

For those who don’t realize it, Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967. Relocating from Paris to New York City, JJ actually owned and recorded with the second Moog ever produced, and with his musical partner Gershon Kingsley, they released their first Moog album -- almost two years before Wendy Carlos released her first Moog album. Jean-Jacques was truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.

His crazy, happy music has been heard everywhere from commercials, to Sesame Street - in hip-hop songs, in dance remixes and most famously, for decades in the delightful featured music in Disneyland’s

“Main Street Electrical Parade”. In recent years, his music has even made appearances on The Simpsons, and on Comedy Central’s “South Park”.

As a teenager growing up in the ‘70s, I was charmed by Jean-Jacques’ inventive Moog albums released by Vanguard Records, and many times I secretly would smuggle those albums into my high school French class. There, instead of conjugating French verbs and nouns, (when the teacher wasn’t looking)

I would carefully sneak peeks at the back cover liner notes. I’d spend the class time dreaming impossible dreams of someday owning a Moog synthesizer of my own, and having a chance to twirl its many knobs, to unleash its wild cornucopia of never-heard-before sounds.

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RIP clumsy stormtrooper Michael Leader

Michael Leader, famous in certain circles as a clumsy Star Wars stormtrooper who knocked his head on a door, has died. He was also known for playing the longtime milkman character in UK soap Eastenders. Read the rest

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Nobel prize laureate and author, dead at 87

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prolific author, and an outspoken activist for peace and human rights. He died Saturday, at 87 years old.

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Umberto Eco, 1932-2016

Umberto Eco, the Italian philosopher, writer and semiotics professor, is dead at 84, reports the BBC.

Eco is most famous as the author of elaborate historical novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, but my favorite is his book of shorts, Misreadings.

From it, here is his summary of the Bible, presented as an internal memo at a publishing house written by an editor rejecting the manuscript.

The Bible:

I must say that the first few hundred pages of this manuscript really hooked me. Action-packed, they have everything today's reader wants in a good story. Sex (lots of it, including adultery, sodomy, incest), also murder, war, massacres, and so on.

The Sodom and Gomorrah chapter, with the tranvestites putting the make on the angels, is worthy of Rabelais; the Noah stories are pure Jules Verne; the escape from Egypt cries out to be turned into a major motion picture . . . In other words, a real blockbuster, very well structured, with plenty of twists, full of invention, with just the right amount of piety, and never lapsing into tragedy.

But as I kept on reading, I realized that this is actually an anthology, involving several writers, with many--too many--stretches of poetry, and passages that are downright mawkish and boring, and jeremiads that make no sense.

The end result is a monster omnibus. It seems to have something for everybody, but ends up appealing to nobody. And acquiring the rights from all these different authors will mean big headaches, unless the editor takes care of that himself.

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Antonin Scalia, 1936-2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79. The longest-serving judge on the court, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and became its most outspoken conservative, joining textualist and originalist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution with a scathing attitude that made his dissents and opinions enjoyable to laymen.

The New York Times describes him as having led a conservative renaissance on the Supreme Court—one likely to end sharpish having died during a liberal presidency.

He was, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in The New Republic in 2011, “the most influential justice of the last quarter century.” Justice Scalia was a champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. In Justice Scalia’s hands, originalism generally led to outcomes that pleased political conservatives, but not always. His approach was helpful to criminal defendants in cases involving sentencing and the cross-examination of witnesses. …

He was an exceptional stylist who labored over his opinions and took pleasure in finding precisely the right word or phrase. In dissent, he took no prisoners. The author of a majority opinion could be confident that a Scalia dissent would not overlook any shortcomings.

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FBI thought Pete Seeger was a commie

Legendary folk singer, activist and countercultural icon Pete Seeger died in 2014 at the age of 94, but we're only now learning that the FBI thought he was a communist as a young man because of the artist's "subversive" connections.

In a security investigation triggered by a wartime letter he wrote denouncing a proposal to deport all Japanese-Americans, the Army intercepted Seeger's mail to his fiancee, scoured his school records, talked to his father, interviewed an ex-landlord and questioned his pal Woody Guthrie, according to FBI files obtained by The Associated Press.

Investigators concluded that Seeger's association with known communists and his Japanese-American fiancee pointed to a risk of divided loyalty.

Seeger's "Communistic sympathies, his unsatisfactory relations with landlords and his numerous Communist and otherwise undesirable friends, make him unfit for a position of trust or responsibility," according to a military intelligence report.

Famously, Seeger was later blacklisted during the Red Scare as a member of The Weavers, his band…

Seeger and Lee Hays were identified as Communist Party members by FBI informant Harvey Matusow (who later recanted) and ended up being called up to testify to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955. Hays took the Fifth Amendment. Seeger refused to answer, however, claiming First Amendment grounds, the first to do so after the conviction of the Hollywood Ten in 1950. Seeger was found guilty of contempt and placed under restrictions by the court pending appeal, but in 1961 his conviction was overturned on technical grounds. Because Seeger was among those listed in the entertainment industry blacklist publication, Red Channels, all of the Weavers were placed under FBI surveillance and not allowed to perform on television or radio during the McCarthy era.

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Alan Rickman, 1946-2016

Famous for his intriguing villains and staccato voice, English actor Alan Rickman is dead at 69.

The star was suffering from cancer, his family said. He became one of Britain's best-loved acting stars thanks to roles including Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films and Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

He also won a Bafta Award for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

A family statement said: "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."

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Director Wes Craven dies at 76

Famous for horror productions such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, and his 1972 debut The Last House on the Left, Craven died Sunday of brain cancer in Los Angeles.

Though dream-demon Freddy Krueger is his most famous creation, Craven's cinematic talents ranged from comedy to crime thrillers, with 2005's Red Eye among his biggest hits. He was also a birdwatcher, serving on the board of California Audubon.

He is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, and two children, Jessica and Jonathan Craven.

The BBC collected some early tributes posted online by colleagues and collaborators.

Reflecting on his career, he once said in an interview: "I tried to make movies where I can honestly say I haven't seen that before and to follow my deepest intuitions and in some cases literally my dreams."

Actors posted tributes on social media including actress Courtney Cox, who starred in Craven's 1996 Scream and appeared in the franchise's three subsequent films.

She said: "Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family. x" Rose McGowan, who also featured in the original Scream, said:

"Thank you for being the kindest man, the gentlest man, and one of the smartest men I've known. Please say there's a plot twist."

News of Craven's death was posted to his twitter account late Sunday night.

Justin Wm. Moyer wrote a long obituary, for The Washington Post, which traces the origins of Craven's art. Read the rest

Man dies after eating tablet computer

Police responded Sunday to reports of a man throwing items out of a window in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon their arrival, he began eating pieces of glass and other smashed-up components to "avoid detention," according to a statement released Monday.

The Moscow Times reports that an investigation is underway: "The policeman, who was injured while trying to stop the man from eating his tablet, called an ambulance to the scene but the man lost consciousness and died before it arrived, the statement added." Read the rest

Short documentary puts World War II fatalities into context

More people died in World War II than in any other conflict in history, yet it can be hard to conceptualize that massive loss of life. Read the rest

John Nash, famed mathematician, dies in road accident

"John Forbes Nash Jr., the brilliant Princeton University mathematician whose life story was the subject of the film "A Beautiful Mind," was killed with his wife Alicia on Saturday in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. Previously. Read the rest

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