March 2011 Archives

The woman who made waves as the first female major party vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine A. Ferraro, died Sunday in Boston at age 75.

She died from complications relating to the blood cancer she had fought for the last 12 years, according to a statement from her family.

Ferraro was a congresswoman from Queens when former Vice-President Walter Mondale picked her as his running mate in the 1984 elections, reported The New York Times. Although the Mondale/Ferraro ticket lost badly, for many women just seeing her nominated as a candidate for national office--64 years after women first claimed the right to vote--was a success.

Ben W. Heineman Jr. was part of the team that helped prepare Ferraro for her debate with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. "[T]here was no difference between the public person and the private person," he wrote in an article for The Atlantic, calling Ferraro "a tough, smart, savvy, fearless, funny woman who was totally authentic."

Ferraro was not only the first female to run for national office but the first Italian American--a categorization which was unfortunately tainted by campaign rumors of ties to organized crime, The New York Times reported.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Ferraro was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University from after her and Mondale's failed bid until 1992, when she waged an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate nomination. After that, she worked for a time as an advocate for Yugoslavian rape victims, and served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council from 1994-95. Another unsuccessful bid for a Senate nomination followed.

Although her political ambitions were never realized, and controversy continued to follow her, Ferraro will be remembered overwhelmingly for her role in breaking down the gender barrier standing between women and the White House.

Life-long truck driver died in truck accident

Grand Meadow truck driver Richard Q. Quentin Hoefs, 84, died Tuesday evening in a Semi Truck Pic.jpgtruck accident.

Hoefs was born in 1926 near Lewiston, in Winona County, Minnesota, according to the Austin Daily Herald. He lived in Lewiston with his wife, Margaret, until 1963 when they moved to Grand Meadow, which is near the Minnesota/Iowa border.

Hoefs got his first trucking gig as a 16-year-old, driving milk and eggs, and drove trucks for a living until he died, the Austin Daily Herald reported. At the time of his death he was driving a semi truck for Stier Farms.

Hoefs' semi struck a car partly on the shoulder along Interstate 80 near Des Moines, Iowa, and rolled over into a ditch, according to Rochester's Post-Bulletin. Hoefs was declared dead at the scene, and the driver of the other car was treated at the scene for injuries.

Hoefs has six surviving children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren; his wife Margaret and one child and grandchild had died previously to him, the Austin Daily Herald reported.

Former Gophers football coach Murray Warmath died on March 16 at 98 years.

With Warmath as coach, the Gophers made it twice to the Rose Bowl (winning one, losing one), won the nationals, and two Big Ten titles, according to the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman.

He was the last coach to accomplish these feats, reported the Minnesota Daily.

However, Warmath had to overcome difficult losing years in 1958 and '59, during which detractors threw trash in his front yard and tried to raise money to buy out his contract, according to the Star Tribune.

Perhaps most of all, though, Warmath should be remembered for recruiting and playing African-American athletes, which helped "to break down the color barrier at universities all across the country," said University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, quoted in the Fergus Falls Journal.

Warmath went on to an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings and then worked as a talent scout before retiring in the 1990's, the Fergus Falls Journal reported.

As Gopher's coach, Warmath led his team with discipline and high expectations, according to the Star Tribune. His memorial on Monday--the first of two--was attended by hundreds, among them dozens of former players who ended the service by singing the "Minnesota Rouser.''

Murray Warmath Jr., Warmath's only surviving child, delivered the eulogy at the memorial.

Just who is Saif Gaddafi?

Saif al-Islam ("Sword of Islam") Gaddafi has the world wondering exactly who he is.

Gaddafi was born in 1972. Besides studying in Austria and at the London School of Economics, he founded the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation in 1999, according to a report on Monsters and Critics.

The second oldest son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, he "was widely viewed as liberal, talented, and a force for change," wrote Peter Goodspeed in Canada's National Post.

That is, until he shocked many with a speech in late February wherein he repeated the government claim that protestors were on drugs and hallucinogens, said that the country was likely to descend into civil war if the protestors did not stand down, and threatened to fight to the last man, woman, and bullet.

Since that speech, former friends and business associates in the west have been distancing themselves from Gaddafi, reported BBC News.

Others who knew Gaddafi have been trying to reconcile the liberal reformer they thought they knew with the brutal, repressive figure he seems to have become. Professor David Held (quoted in the National Post), who informally advised Gaddafi during Gaddafi's time at the London School of Economics, described the Gaddafi giving the speech as "A young man torn by a struggle between loyalty to his father and his family, and the beliefs he had come to hold for reform, democracy and the rule of law."

Adding to the bewildering picture is a recent report by Reuters that Saif Gaddafi and other members of Muammar Gaddafi's entourage have been putting out "feelers" in an attempt to establish a ceasefire with the allied forces who have been conducting U.N.-backed airstrikes in Libya, or alternatively to ascertain safe passage from Libya.

It seemed to be unclear whether this outreach was authorized or even known of by Muammar Gaddafi, who had sworn in a speech in February to die a martyr on Libyan soil.

Saif Gaddafi is also known to be a surrealist painter, whose art exhibition "The Desert Is Not Silent" has been making the rounds in the west over the past eight years, according to the New Statesman. Some, but not all, of Gaddafi's paintings are political. One featured his late pet tiger Fredo.

Disco icon Loleatta Holloway died Monday

HOLLOWAY-obit-popup.jpgSoul and disco singer Loleatta Holloway died on Monday at age 64.

Holloway was known for her powerful voice. "Loleatta always sounded as if she was about to climb through the speakers and slap you six ways from Sunday," wrote Martin Samuel for the Daily Mail.

Holloway's manager Ron Richardson confirmed her death, saying she had died of heart failure after slipping into a coma, according to Ray Fitzgerald at

Holloway started in soul, but had most of her successes on the dance charts with hits such as "Dreamin'," "Hit and Run," and the popular "Love Sensation" which reached No. 1 on the dance chart and would go on to be extensively sampled, The New York Times reported.

The Italian disco group Black Box sampled Holloway's "Love Sensation" vocals in their hit "Ride on Time," but failed to give her credit. Holloway sued, and the matter was settled out of court in her favor, according to The New York Times. "Love Sensation" was again drawn on for the 1991 Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch hit "Good Vibrations," with due credit given to Holloway.

Although her last studio album was Love Sensation in 1981, Holloway continued to release singles until the time of her death, with numerous hits reaching the dance charts, according to the Jamaica Observer.

Ironically, Holloway did not always consider herself a good singer. "When I was 5 years old I started singing in church and I hated my voice because I sounded like a grown woman, not a child," Holloway said in 2009, quoted in The New York Times.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi drove rebel fighters from the eastern oil city of Brega, one of the last major towns before the key rebel stronghold of Bengazi, on Sunday.

The Guardian predicted that time was running out for Libya's revolution, and described scenes of rocket and shell-fire raining from the sky and exhausted rebels fleeing in pick-up trucks.

Calls by the Arab League for a no-flight zone over Libya may be considered by the United Nations Security Council this week, but such a move may be a stretch considering opposition from Russia and China and even a lack of clear support from the U.S. and Europe, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times report, increasingly beleaguered rebel forces on the ground are also still undecided on the issue of U.N. or western intervention.

Speaking from Ajdabiya, the last major town before Benghazi, former interior minister Abdel Fattah Younis, who defected to the rebel side in February and has become an unexpected leader of the revolutionary forces, called the retreat a tactical withdrawal and pledged a strong defense, according to the report in the Guardian.

But if outside support does not come, it seems unlikely that rebel forces will continue to withstand the onslaught from the far better equipped pro-government forces. "He has a tank and we have a stone," said one rebel fighter quoted in the New York Times.

Bachmann fires up crowds but misses shot heard around the world

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann drew cheers from Tea Party supporters in New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday, but misspoke on matters of Revolutionary War history.

Bachmann told supporters, "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord," reported Holly Ramer for the Associated Press. The revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord actually took place in Massachusetts.

After sounding this claim in speeches Friday night and Saturday morning, Bachmann caught on to her mistake and in her final speech in New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon emphasized instead that people from N.H. had helped those in Massachusetts, where the first shot was fired, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Bachmann was the second potential presidential candidate from Minnesota to visit N.H. in recent days, Ramer reported. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was wrapping up his own visit in the state of the first presidential primary as Bachmann arrived.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowling resigned on Sunday following remarks he made Thursday criticizing the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been held in military detention for months on suspicion of passing classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Crowling was speaking to a small group at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology seminar on new media when he was asked about the treatment of Manning, The Boston Globe reported. He answered that what was being done to Manning was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

Politico reported that Manning is being held in near-constant lockdown, and had filed a complaint about being forced to strip down each night before bedtime.

According to a report by Warren P. Strobel for McClatchy Newspapers, Manning's treatment while in confinement has also been criticized by human rights groups.

President Obama, quoted in Politico, said in a press conference on Friday that he has been assured by the Pentagon that procedures relating to Manning's detention were appropriate and met basic standards.

Crowley said in a statement that he accepted responsibility for his comments and stressed that his remarks had been intended to highlight a broader issue of how actions undertaken by national security agencies could affect the U.S.'s global standing.

Crowley did not withdraw the gist of his remarks, as Strobel points out, saying in his statement, "The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values."

Minneapolis blogger ordered to pay $60,000 in damages

A Hennepin County jury ordered Minneapolis blogger John Hoff to pay $60,000 in damages to a former community organizer, Minnesota Public Radio reported Friday.

Hoff, aka Johnny Northside, had accused Jerry Moore in a 2009 blog post of involvement in a high-profile mortgage fraud case. Moore was fired from his position at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center the day after the post, and subsequently sued Hoff on claims of defamation and contract interference, reported the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

While the jury found that Hoff's statement was true and therefore dismissed the charges of defamation, it ruled that Hoff had intentionally interfered with Moore's employment contract at the University of Minnesota, according to Sheila Regan's report for the TC Daily Plant.

The Star Tribune reported that the trial was closely followed by First Amendment scholars and free-speech advocates because of its potential impact on citizen journalism.

According to Regan in the TC Daily Planet, Moore's attorney argued that much of the First Amendment and freedom of the press discussion was not relevant to blogging, and said that blogs need to have limits.

University of Minnesota media law professor Jane Kirtley, quoted in the Star Tribune, said that she expected the case to be overturned on appeal.

The possibility of a nuclear meltdown in Japan Saturday raised global concerns over the use of nuclear power.

A magnitude-8.9 earthquake shook Japan's eastern coast on Friday and damaged several nuclear power plants. An explosion Saturday morning at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and concerns over rising pressure inside reactors were among the factors which ignited debate about nuclear energy in various countries.

In Germany, over 40,000 protestors joined to form a 28 mile long human chain stretching from a nuclear power plant in southern Germany to the nearby city of Stuttgart, reported Deutsche Welle. The protest had been planned previous to the earthquake, but the high turnout was undoubtedly fueled by fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with a promised inspection of the country's 17 atomic energy plants, saying that business could not carry on as usual, according to the Deutsche Welle report.

Meanwhile in neighboring France green groups demanded that their country end its reliance on nuclear energy, Reuters reported Saturday. "It's clear that when there's a significant natural disaster, all the so-called safety measures fail in a country with the highest level of technical know-how," Reuters quoted the head of France's Europe Ecologie-Les Verts party as saying.

The Times of India reported increased agitation in India as well, where residents have been protesting a proposed nuclear power plant in Jaitapur. Activists said that the situation in Japan confirmed their fears of the danger posed by nuclear power plants.

And in the U.S., Rep. Edward J. Markey has called for a moratorium on building new nuclear reactors in earthquake prone areas as well as stronger containment systems for those reactors already in such seismically active areas, reported Stephanie Simon for The Wall Street Journal.

The effects of this catastrophe on the future of nuclear power could be far-reaching. Especially if a nuclear meltdown and large-scale radiation leakage occur in Japan, a country which is seen as "high-tech," the safety of nuclear power plants world-wide is likely to be called into question.

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