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The Charger Bulletin

Neil Armstrong: The Death of an American Hero

by Ana Abraham | September 5, 2012

As recently as 50 years ago, the idea of putting a man on the moon was viewed as—no pun intended—an astronomical impossibility.

The commander of NASA’s ship Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, became the first person to set foot on the moon. And, on Aug. 25, 2012, Neil Armstrong passed away in Cincinnati.

In mid-1961, President John F. Kennedy announced a goal to see an American safely to the moon by the end of the decade, thus adding new pressure to the “Space Race” against the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Even after JFK’s assassination, his ambitious goal was realized on July 20, 1969. The commander of NASA’s ship Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, became the first person to set foot on the moon.

And, on Aug. 25, 2012, Neil Armstrong passed away in Cincinnati.

“As long as there are history books,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “Neil Armstrong will be included in them.”

Armstrong is considered a legend of space exploration and an American hero. He was only 38 years old when the entire world watched him change history by taking the first steps outside of a spacecraft.

On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and fellow astronauts ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the moon after four days and 250,000 miles of space travel.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent over two hours on the surface of the moon, during which they placed an American flag and collected samples for analysis back on Earth. None of the three men returned to space after the Apollo 11 mission.

The USSR never did put a man on the moon. There have only been 12 people to set foot on the moon, all of them Americans from six separate Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972.

There have been 23 unmanned landings in the years since. In 2005, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) told National Geographic that they would like to return humans to the moon by 2018.

Neil Armstrong, the first member of an extremely exclusive group of legends, passed away at 82 years old due to “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures,” according to his family.

He was a Korean War veteran and also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest non-military award offered in the U.S, for his role in the Apollo 11 mission. Despite being hailed as a national hero, Armstrong was, by all accounts, a humble and modest man who preferred teaching and spending time with his family to interviews and fame.

Most are familiar with Armstrong’s famous quote uttered while walking on the surface of the moon, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Many media outlets and bloggers are calling his death “one giant loss for mankind.”

Both President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney agree with this claim. President Obama ordered all flags in the nation to be at half-mast Friday, Aug. 31, for Armstrong’s funeral.

In a press release, he also summed up the view of pretty much every news story and social network post in the nation by stating that Armstrong was one of “the greatest American heroes…of all time.”

 

 

UNH student dead from fall

by Brandon T. Bisceglia | November 6, 2011

The UNH student who fell from a fourth-story at Sheffield Hall Saturday evening has died of his injuries, according to sources.

Samuel Milano, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice from Cary, N.C., student suffered severe injuries when he landed on the pavement below the window. The incident occurred at approximately 5:30 p.m.

Milano was taken to an area trauma hospital, where he died overnight of his injuries. UNH Chief of Police Mark J. DeLieto said in an email about the incident that the circumstances of the fall are not yet known and are under investigation.

The Dean of Students Office will provide information regarding services once they have been planned, said UNH President Steven H. Kaplan in an email today.

Boxer Edwin Valero Found Dead

by The Associated Press | April 21, 2010

CARACAS, Venezuela – Former boxing champ Edwin Valero committed suicide in his jail cell on Monday just hours after he was arrested in his wife’s killing, police said.

The former lightweight champion used his own clothes to hang himself from a bar in his cell early Monday, Venezuelan Federal Police Chief Wilmer Flores told reporters.

He said Valero was found by another inmate, who alerted authorities in the police lockup in north-central Carabobo state. Valero still showed signs of life when they took him down, but they were unable to save him and he died about 1:30 a.m., Flores said.

The 28-year-old was detained Sunday on suspicion of killing his wife. Prosecutors said Sunday night that they had planned to charge Valero in the killing.

Valero was detained after police found the body of his 24-year-old wife in a hotel in Valencia. The boxer left the hotel room around dawn Sunday and allegedly told security he had killed Jennifer Viera, Flores said.

The fighter was a household name in Venezuela and had a huge image of President Hugo Chavez tattooed on his chest, along with the country’s yellow, blue and red flag.

His all-action style and 27-0 record — all by knockouts — earned him a reputation as a tough, explosive crowd-pleaser. Venezuelans called him “Inca,” alluding to an Indian warrior, while elsewhere he was called “Dinamita,” or dynamite.

The former WBA super featherweight and WBC lightweight champion had been in trouble with the law before.

Last month, Valero was charged with harassing his wife and threatening medical personnel who treated her at a hospital in the western city of Merida. Police arrested Valero following an argument with a doctor and nurse at the hospital, where his wife was being treated for a series of injuries, including a punctured lung and broken ribs.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that Valero was detained March 25 on suspicion of assaulting his wife, but his wife told a police officer her injuries were due to a fall.

When the boxer arrived moments later, he forbade Viera from speaking to the police officer, and spoke threateningly to the officer, prosecutors said in a statement.

The Attorney General’s Office said a prosecutor had asked a court to order Valero jailed but that the judge instead placed him under a restraining order that barred him from going near his wife, a condition he repeatedly violated.

Police found three stab wounds on Viera’s body, but investigators who searched the hotel rooms had yet to find the weapon used in the killing, Flores said.

In the ring, Valero shot to fame when he won his first 18 fights by first-round knockout, setting a record that has since been eclipsed by Tyrone Brunson. Valero last fought in February, stopping Antonio DeMarco in a fight in Monterrey, Mexico.

He was replaced as WBC lightweight champion in February after he expressed a desire to campaign in a higher weight division, WBC president Jose Sulaiman said.

Valero was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2001 that caused a cerebral hemorrhage, and because most jurisdictions refuse to license a fighter who has sustained a brain injury, he was unable to fight in the United States. The boxer wound up fighting mainly in Japan and Latin America, where he won his first title in 2006.

Valero also was charged with drunken driving in Texas, which is the primary reason he was denied a U.S. visa.

He accused the U.S. government of discrimination, saying his application wasn’t approved because of his sympathy for Chavez, a fierce critic of the U.S. government.

He appeared at times as a special guest at televised events hosted by Chavez and was lionized by Chavez supporters as a national hero, while some critics accused him of avoiding punishment for past problems due to close links to the government.

Polish leader, 96 others dead in Russia jet crash

by Liz De La Torre | April 10, 2010

From The Associated Press

SMOLENSK, Russia – Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country’s highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 97, officials said.

Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in Katyn forest of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland’s political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, and heads of the air and land forces. Also killed were the national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

Although initial signs pointed to an accident with no indication of foul play, the death of a Polish president and much of the Polish state and defense establishment in Russia en route to commemorating one of the saddest events in Poland’s long, complicated history with Russia, was laden with tragic irony.

Reflecting the grave sensibilities of the crash to relations between the two countries, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally assumed charge of the investigation. He was due in Smolensk later Saturday, where he would meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was flying in from Warsaw.

“This is unbelievable — this tragic, cursed Katyn,” Kaczynski’s predecessor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, said on TVN24 television.

It is “a cursed place, horrible symbolism,” he said. “It’s hard to believe. You get chills down your spine.”

Andrei Yevseyenkov, spokesman for the Smolensk regional government, said Russian dispatchers asked the crew to divert from the military airport in North Smolensk and land instead in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus, or in Moscow because of the fog.

While traffic controllers generally have the final word in whether it is safe for a plane to land, they can and do leave it to the pilots’ discretion.

Air Force Gen. Alexander Alyoshin confirmed that the pilot disregarded instructions to fly to another airfield.

“But they continued landing, and it ended, unfortunately, with a tragedy,” the Interfax news agency quoted Alyoshin as saying. He added that the pilot makes the final decision about whether to land.

Russia’s Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu said there were 97 dead. His ministry said 88 of whom were part of the Polish state delegation. Poland’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Piotr Paszkowski, said there were 89 people on the passenger list but one person had not shown up for the roughly 1 1/2-hour flight from Warsaw’s main airport.

Some of the people on board were relatives of those slain in the Katyn massacre. Also among the victims was Anna Walentynowicz, whose firing in August 1980 from the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk sparked a workers’ strike that spurred the eventual creation of the Solidarity freedom movement. She went on to be a prominent member.

“This is a great tragedy, a great shock to us all,” former president and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said.

The deaths were not expected to directly affect the functioning of Polish government: Poland’s president is commander in chief of its armed forces but the position’s domestic duties are chiefly symbolic. Most top government ministers were not aboard the plane.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 66 crashes involving Tu-154s in the past four decades, including six in the past five years. The Russian carrier Aeroflot recently withdrew its Tu-154 fleet from service, largely because the planes do not meet international noise restrictions and use too much fuel.

The aircraft was the workhorse of East Bloc civil aviation in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of the crashes have been attributed to the chaos that ensued after the breakup of the Soviet Unio

Poland has long discussed replacing the planes that carry the country’s leaders but said they lacked the funds.

The presidential plane was fully overhauled in December, the general director of the Aviakor aviation maintenance plant in Samara, Russia told Rossiya-24. The plant repaired the plane’s three engines, retrofitted electronic and navigation equipment and updated the interior, Alexei Gusev said. He said there could be no doubts that the plane was flightworthy.

The plane tilted to the left before crashing, eyewitness Slawomir Sliwinski told state news channel Rossiya-24. He said there were two loud explosions when the aircraft hit the ground.

Rossiya-24 showed footage from the crash site, with pieces of the plane scattered widely amid leafless trees and small fires burning in woods shrouded with fog. A tail fin with the red and white national colors of Poland stuck up from the debris.

Polish-Russian relations had been improving of late after being poisoned for decades over the Katyn massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers.

Russia never has formally apologized for the murders but Putin’s decision to attend a memorial ceremony earlier this week in the forest near Katyn was seen as a gesture of goodwill toward reconciliation. Kaczynski wasn’t invited to that event. Putin, as prime minister, had invited his Polish counterpart, Tusk.

Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev both called Tusk to express their condolences and they promised to work closely with Poland in investigating the crash. Tusk said they had been the first to offer condolences.

“On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people,” Medvedev said, according to the Kremlin press service.

Putin told Tusk that he would keep him fully briefed on the investigation, his spokesman said.

Rossiya-24 showed hundreds of people around the Katyn monument, many holding Polish flags, some weeping.

Poland’s parliament speaker, the acting president, declared a week of national mourning. Tusk called for two minutes of silence at noon (1000GMT) Sunday.

“The contemporary world has not seen such a tragedy,” he said.

In Warsaw, Tusk also called an extraordinary meeting of his Cabinet and the national flag was lowered to half-staff at the presidential palace, where several thousand people gathered to lay flowers and light candles. Black ribbons appeared in some windows in the capital.

Kaczynski, 60, was the twin brother of Poland’s opposition leader, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski’s wife, Maria, was an economist. They had a daughter, Marta, and two granddaughters.

Lech Kaczynski became president in December 2005 after defeating Tusk in that year’s presidential vote.

The nationalist conservative had said he would seek a second term in presidential elections this fall. He was expected to face an uphill struggle against Parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Tusk’s governing Civic Platform party.

The constitution says the parliament speaker announce early elections within 14 days of the president’s death. The vote must be held within another 60 days.

Poland, a nation of 38 million people, is by far the largest of the 10 formerly communist countries that have joined the European Union in recent years.

Last year, Poland was the only EU nation to avoid recession and posted economic growth of 1.7 percent.

It has become a firm U.S. ally in the region since the fall of communism — a stance that crosses party lines.

The country sent troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and recently boosted its contingent in Afghanistan to some 2,600 soldiers.

U.S. Patriot missiles are expected to be deployed in Poland this year. That was a Polish condition for a 2008 deal — backed by both Kaczynski and Tusk — to host long-range missile defense interceptors.

The deal, which was struck by the Bush administration, angered Russia and was later reconfigured under President Barack Obama’s administration.

Under the Obama plan, Poland would host a different type of missile defense interceptors as part of a more mobile system and at a later date, probably not until 2018.

Kaczynski is the first serving Polish leader to die since exiled World War II-era leader Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski in a plane crash off Gibraltar in 1943.

In the village of Gorzno, in northern Poland, the streets were largely empty as people stayed home to watch television.

“It is very symbolic that they were flying to pay homage to so many murdered Poles,” said resident Waleria Gess, 73.

“I worry because so many clever and decent people were killed,” said high school student Pawel Kwas, 17. “I am afraid we may have problems in the future to find equally talented politicians.”

Parents of dead SoCal teen urge new predator laws

by Liz De La Torre | March 9, 2010

From The Associated Press

ESCONDIDO, Calif. – The father of a 14-year-old girl whose bones were found more than a year after she vanished walking to school urged supporters to behave like his late daughter’s favorite animal, the wolf, to hunt down child predators.

“Wolves hunt to survive, wolves hunt to together to catch their prey,” Maurice Dubois told more than 1,000 mourners at a candlelight vigil Monday night for Amber Dubois. “We as parents and the community need to make a change for the protection of our children.”

Mourners held a moment of silence for Amber, whose remains were found early Saturday in a rugged area north of San Diego, and 17-year-old Chelsea King, who disappeared Feb. 25 in a north San Diego park. A body presumed to be Chelsea’s was found March 2 in a shallow, lakeside grave.

John Albert Gardner III pleaded not guilty last week to murdering and raping or attempting to rape 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway and attempting to rape another woman in December in the same park where King disappeared.

His public defender, Michael Popkins, did not respond to a phone message.

The registered sex offender was expected in court Tuesday for a brief hearing to address procedural issues.

Escondido police say Gardner, 30, is also a focus of their investigation into Amber’s death.

Carrie McGonigle, Amber’s mother, said laws need to be changed.

“I still see a lot of children walking by themselves and it scares me,” she said on a chilly night in the courtyard of Escondido High School, near the spot where Amber disappeared Feb. 13, 2009, in the north San Diego suburb.

Police said Sunday that Amber’s remains were identified through dental records. They have not said what led them to the remote area near Pala because the discovery is part of a murder investigation.

“Yesterday was my personal time for tears,” Dubois told the audience. “Now, for Amber, it is our time to take action.”

Amber, a member of Future Farmers of America, left home with a $200 check to buy a lamb on the day she vanished. It was never cashed, fueling suspicion of foul play.

But, as Dubois noted in his remarks, rumors that she was a runaway hampered the family’s efforts to bring national media attention to their search. Gardner’s arrest three days after Chelsea King disappeared renewed interest in Amber.

Amber was an avid reader and animal lover who had a horse at her grandmother’s stable in the Los Angeles area.

Kelly Elsbernd, a cousin, said she and Amber grew up drawing animals together and pretending to be seals and otters when they went swimming.

“They never really played with dolls,” said Nicole Elsbernd, Kelly’s mother. “They played with bugs.”

Jade Fidel, Amber’s best friend, said Amber had two dogs, a cat and a bird but wolves were her favorite.

“She liked them,” Fidel said. “They were free, independent.”

Gardner was registered as a sex offender in Escondido from January 2008 to January 2010, with some gaps, according to police. He served five years of a six-year prison term for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in San Diego in 2000 and completed parole in September 2008

Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher told the crowd he would do everything possible to find Amber’s killer.

“If not closure, we can certainly get justice,” he said.

2 of oldest people in US die: in NH 114, Mich. 113

by Liz De La Torre | March 9, 2010

From The Associated Press

WESTMORELAND, N.H. – Two of the oldest people in the world have died on the same day.

Mary Josephine Ray, who was certified as the oldest person living in the United States, died Sunday at age 114 years, 294 days. She died at a nursing home in Westmoreland but was active until about two weeks before her death, her granddaughter Katherine Ray said.

“She just enjoyed life. She never thought of dying at all,” Katherine Ray said. “She was planning for her birthday party.”

Ray died just hours before Daisey Bailey, who was 113 years, 342 days, said L. Stephen Coles, a director of the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks and studies old people and certifies those 110 or older, called supercentenarians.

“It’s very rare that two of our supercentenarians die on the same day,” Coles said.

Bailey, who was born March 30, 1896, died in Detroit, he said. She had suffered from dementia, said her family, which claimed she was born in 1895.

Ray, even with her recent decline, managed an interview with a reporter last week, her granddaughter said.

Ray was the oldest person in the United States and the second-oldest in the world, the Gerontology Research Group said. She also was recorded as the oldest person ever to live in New Hampshire.

The oldest living American is now Neva Morris, of Ames, Iowa, at age 114 years, 216 days. The oldest person in the world is Japan’s Kama Chinen at age 114 years, 301 days.

Ray was born May 17, 1895, in Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island, Canada. She moved to the United States at age 3.

She lived for 60 years in Anson, Maine. She lived in Florida, Massachusetts and elsewhere in New Hampshire before she moved to Westmoreland in 2002 to be near her children.

Ray’s husband, Walter Ray, died in 1967. Survivors include two sons, eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

Morris, the Iowa woman now believed to be the oldest U.S. resident, lives at a care center. Only one of her four children, a son in Sioux City, is still alive.

“She has some hearing deficiencies and a visual deficiency, but mentally she is quite alert and will respond when she feels like it and isn’t too tired,” said her 90-year-old son-in-law, Tom Wickersham, who lives in the same care center.

Former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson dies at 76

by Liz De La Torre | February 10, 2010

From The Associated Press

DALLAS – Charlie Wilson, the fun-loving Texas congressman whose backroom dealmaking funneled millions of dollars in weapons to Afghanistan, allowing the country’s underdog mujahedeen rebels to beat back the mighty Soviet Red Army, died Wednesday. He was 76.

Wilson died at Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin after having difficulty breathing after attending a meeting in the eastern Texas town where he lived, said hospital spokeswoman Yana Ogletree. Wilson was pronounced dead on arrival, and the preliminary cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, she said.

Wilson represented Texas’ 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1996 and was known in Washington as “Good Time Charlie” for his reputation as a hard-drinking womanizer. He once called former congresswoman Pat Schroeder “Babycakes,” and tried to take a beauty queen with him on a government trip to Afghanistan.

Wilson, a Democrat, was considered both a progressive and a defense hawk. While his efforts to arm the mujahedeen in the 1980s were a success — spurring a victory that helped speed the downfall of the Soviet Union — he was unable to keep the money flowing after the Soviets left. Afghanistan plunged into chaos, creating an opening eventually filled by the Taliban, which harbored al-Qaida terrorists.

After the Sept. 11 attacks — carried out by al-Qaida terrorists trained in Afghanistan — the U.S. ended up invading the country it had once helped liberate.

“People like me didn’t fulfill our responsibilities once the war was over,” Wilson said in a September 2001 interview with The Associated Press. “We allowed this vacuum to occur in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which enraged a lot of people. That was as much my fault as it was a lot of others.”

His efforts to help the Afghan rebels — as well as his partying ways — were portrayed in the movie and book “Charlie Wilson’s War.” In an interview with The Associated Press after the book was published in 2003, he said he wasn’t worried about details of his wild side being portrayed.

“I would remind you that I was not married at the time. I’m in a different place than I was in at the time and I don’t apologize about that,” Wilson said.

Charles Wilson was born June 1, 1933, in Trinity. He attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville before earning his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956.

Wilson served as a Naval lieutenant between 1956-60, then entered politics by volunteering for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. He served in the Texas House and then in the Texas Senate before being elected to the U.S. House in 1972.

“Charlie was perfect as a congressman, perfect as a state representative, perfect as a state senator. He was a perfect reflection of the people he represented. If there was anything wrong with Charlie, I never did know what it was,” said Charles Schnabel Jr., who served for seven years as Wilson’s chief of staff in Washington and worked with Wilson when he served in the Texas Senate.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Wilson helped secure money for weapons that were delivered to the mujahedeen by then-CIA agent Mike Vickers. The Soviets spent a decade battling the rebels before pulling the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1989. Two years later, its economy in ruins, the Soviet Union fell apart.

Vickers, now assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said Wednesday that Wilson was a “great American patriot who played a pivotal role in a world-changing event — the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire.”

Longtime friend Buddy Temple, who was with Wilson when he collapsed Wednesday, said that despite Wilson’s reputation as a playboy, he was serious about representing east Texas, including helping to create the Big Thicket National Preserve — almost 100,000 acres of swamps, bogs and forests.

“Charlie was a giant. We have lost a giant. There won’t be another like him,” Temple said at a hospital news conference announcing Wilson’s death.

Wilson left politics in 1996, after he no longer found it any fun. He lobbied for a number of years before returning to Texas. In 2007, he had a heart transplant after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes an enlarged and weakened heart.

Schnabel said he had just been with Wilson a few weeks ago for the dedication of the Charlie Wilson chair for Pakistan studies at the University of Texas, Austin, a $1 million endowment. He said Wilson had been doing “very good” and said his former boss described himself as “a poster boy” for heart transplants.

Ogletree said Wilson is survived by his wife, Barbara, whom he married in 1999, and a sister.

‘Catcher in the Rye’ author J.D. Salinger dies

by Liz De La Torre | January 28, 2010

From The Associated Press

NEW YORK – J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose “The Catcher in the Rye” shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author’s son, actor Matt Salinger, said in a statement from Salinger’s longtime literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, Inc. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in a small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made “Catcher” a featured selection, advised that for “anyone who has ever brought up a son” the novel will be “a source of wonder and delight — and concern.”

Enraged by all the “phonies” who make “me so depressed I go crazy,” Holden soon became American literature’s most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn. The novel’s sales are astonishing — more than 60 million copies worldwide — and its impact incalculable. Decades after publication, the book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams: to never grow up.

Salinger was writing for adults, but teenagers from all over identified with the novel’s themes of alienation, innocence and fantasy, not to mention the luck of having the last word. “Catcher” presents the world as an ever-so-unfair struggle between the goodness of young people and the corruption of elders, a message that only intensified with the oncoming generation gap.

Novels from Evan Hunter’s “The Blackboard Jungle” to Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Prep,” movies from “Rebel Without a Cause” to “The Breakfast Club,” and countless rock ‘n’ roll songs echoed Salinger’s message of kids under siege. One of the great anti-heroes of the 1960s, Benjamin Braddock of “The Graduate,” was but a blander version of Salinger’s narrator.

“`Catcher in the Rye’ made a very powerful and surprising impression on me,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who read the book, as so many did, when he was in middle school. “Part of it was the fact that our seventh grade teacher was actually letting us read such a book. But mostly it was because `Catcher’ had such a recognizable authenticity in the voice that even in 1977 or so, when I read it, felt surprising and rare in literature.”

“Many readers were created by `The Catcher in The Rye,’ and many writers, too,” said “Everything Is Illuminated” novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. “He and his characters embodied a kind of American resistance that has been sorely missed these last few years, and will now be missed even more.”

The cult of “Catcher” turned tragic in December 1980 when crazed Beatles fan Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, citing Salinger’s novel as an inspiration and stating that “this extraordinary book holds many answers.” A few months later, a copy of “Catcher” was found in the hotel room of John David Hinckley after he attempted to assassinate President Reagan.

By the 21st century, Holden himself seemed relatively mild, but Salinger’s book remained a standard in school curriculums and was discussed on countless Web sites and a fan page on Facebook.

Salinger fans shared their grief Thursday on social networks. Topics such as “Salinger” and “Holden Caufield” were among the most popular on Twitter. CNN’s Larry King tweeted that “Catcher” is his favorite book. Humorist John Hodgman wrote: “I prefer to think JD Salinger has just decided to become extra reclusive.”

As of Thursday night, “Catcher” was in the top 20 on Amazon.com‘s best-seller list.

Salinger’s other books don’t equal the influence or sales of “Catcher,” but they are still read, again and again, with great affection and intensity. Critics, at least briefly, rated Salinger as a more accomplished and daring short story writer than John Cheever.

The collection “Nine Stories” features the classic “For Esme — with Love and Squalor,” the deadpan account of a suicidal Army veteran and the little girl he hopes, in vain, will save him. The fictional work “Franny and Zooey,” like “Catcher,” is a youthful, obsessively articulated quest for redemption, featuring a memorable argument between Zooey and his mother as he attempts to read in the bathtub.

“Everyone who works here and writes here at The New Yorker, even now, decades after his silence began, does so with a keen awareness of J.D. Salinger’s voice,” said David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, where many of Salinger’s stories appeared. “He is so widely read in America, and read with such intensity, that it’s hard to think of any reader, young and old, who does not carry around the voices of Holden Caulfield or Glass family members.”

“Catcher,” narrated from a mental facility, begins with Holden recalling his expulsion from boarding school for failing four classes and for general apathy. He returns home to Manhattan, where his wanderings take him everywhere from a Times Square hotel to a rainy carousel ride with his kid sister, Phoebe, in Central Park. He decides he wants to escape to a cabin out West, but scorns questions about his future as just so much phoniness.

“I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it?” he reasons. “The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question.”

“The Catcher in the Rye” became both required and restricted reading, periodically banned by a school board or challenged by parents worried by its frank language and the irresistible chip on Holden’s shoulder.

“I’m aware that a number of my friends will be saddened, or shocked, or shocked-saddened, over some of the chapters of `The Catcher in the Rye.’ Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all of my best friends are children,” Salinger wrote in 1955, in a short note for “20th Century Authors.”

“It’s almost unbearable to me to realize that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach,” he added.

Salinger also wrote the novellas “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour — An Introduction,” both featuring the neurotic, fictional Glass family that appeared in much of his work.

His last published story, “Hapworth 16, 1928,” ran in The New Yorker in 1965. By then, he was increasingly viewed like a precocious child whose manner had soured from cute to insufferable. “Salinger was the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school,” Norman Mailer once remarked.

In 1997, it was announced that “Hapworth” would be reissued as a book — prompting a (negative) New York Times review. The book, in typical Salinger style, didn’t appear. In 1999, New Hampshire neighbor Jerry Burt said the author had told him years earlier that he had written at least 15 unpublished books kept locked in a safe at his home.

“I love to write and I assure you I write regularly,” Salinger said in a brief interview with the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate in 1980. “But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.”

The mystery of the safe continued Thursday. Salinger’s representative at the Ober agency, Phyllis Westberg, declined comment on whether the author had any unpublished work. Spokeswoman Heather Rizzo of Little, Brown and Co., Salinger’s longtime publisher, said she had “no news on future releases.”

Jerome David Salinger was born Jan. 1, 1919, in New York City. His father was a wealthy importer of cheeses and meat and the family lived for years on Park Avenue.

Like Holden, Salinger was an indifferent student with a history of trouble in various schools. He was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy at age 15, where he wrote at night by flashlight beneath the covers and eventually earned his only diploma. In 1940, he published his first fiction, “The Young Folks,” in Story magazine.

He served in the Army from 1942 to 1946, carrying a typewriter with him most of the time, writing “whenever I can find the time and an unoccupied foxhole,” he told a friend.

Returning to New York, the lean, dark-haired Salinger pursued an intense study of Zen Buddhism but also cut a gregarious figure in the bars of Greenwich Village, where he astonished acquaintances with his proficiency in rounding up dates. One drinking buddy, author A.E. Hotchner, would remember Salinger as the proud owner of an “ego of cast iron,” contemptuous of writers and writing schools, convinced that he was the best thing to happen to American letters since Herman Melville.

Holden first appeared as a character in the story “Last Day of the Last Furlough,” published in 1944 in the Saturday Evening Post. Salinger’s stories ran in several magazines, especially The New Yorker, where excerpts from “Catcher” were published.

The finished novel quickly became a best seller and early reviews were blueprints for the praise and condemnation to come. The New York Times found the book “an unusually brilliant first novel” and observed that Holden’s “delinquencies seem minor indeed when contrasted with the adult delinquencies with which he is confronted.”

But the Christian Science Monitor was not charmed. “He is alive, human, preposterous, profane and pathetic beyond belief,” critic T. Morris Longstreth wrote of Holden.

The world had come calling for Salinger, but Salinger was bolting the door. By 1952, he had migrated to Cornish. Three years later, he married Claire Douglas, with whom he had two children, Margaret and Matt, before their 1967 divorce. (Salinger was also briefly married in the 1940s to a woman named Sylvia; little else is known about her.)

Meanwhile, he refused interviews, instructing his agent not to forward fan mail and reportedly spending much of his time writing in a cement bunker. Sanity, apparently, could only come through seclusion.

Although Salinger initially contemplated a theater production of “Catcher,” with the author himself playing Holden, he turned down numerous offers for film or stage rights, including requests from Billy Wilder and Elia Kazan. Bids from Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein were also rejected. In recent years, he was a notable holdout against allowing his books to appear in digital form.

Salinger so disliked fame he was willing to sue. In 1982, he sued a man who allegedly tried to sell a fictitious interview with the author to a national magazine. The impostor agreed to desist and Salinger dropped the suit.

Five years later, another Salinger legal action resulted in an important decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to allow publication of an unauthorized biography, by Ian Hamilton, that quoted from the author’s unpublished letters. Salinger had copyrighted the letters when he learned about Hamilton’s book, which came out in a revised edition in 1988.

In 2009, Salinger sued to halt publication of John David California’s “60 Years Later,” an unauthorized sequel to “Catcher” that imagined Holden in his 70s, misanthropic as ever.

Against Salinger’s will, the curtain was parted in recent years. In 1998, author Joyce Maynard published her memoir “At Home in the World,” in which she detailed her eight-month affair with Salinger in the early 1970s; she was less than half his age. She recalled an unflattering picture of a controlling personality with eccentric eating habits, and described their problematic sex life.

In 2000, daughter Margaret Salinger’s “Dreamcatcher” portrayed the writer as an unpleasant recluse who drank his own urine and spoke in tongues. Actor Matt Salinger, the author’s other child, disputed his sister’s book when it came out and labeled it “gothic tales of our supposed childhood.”

“He was a caring, fun, and wonderful father to me, and a tremendous grandfather to my boys,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

2 dead in Ga. shooting; suspect was ex-employee

by Liz De La Torre | January 12, 2010

From The Associated Press

KENNESAW, Ga. – A disgruntled ex-employee stormed a truck rental business in camouflage and opened fire with a handgun, killing two people and critically wounding three others at his former workplace, police said.

The lone gunman fled the scene in a pickup truck and was arrested after police stopped him about a mile from the Penske Truck Rental facility, said Cobb County Police Officer Joe Hernandez. The names of the suspect and victims were not immediately released.

“He wasn’t here for very long and it wasn’t long before he was taken into custody,” Hernandez said.

There were conflicting reports about who the victims were. Penske spokesman Randy Ryerson said four victims were employees and the other was a customer, but police said none of the victims were customers. Hernandez said all of those shot were males.

About two dozen employees were working at the office, which sits about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta and consists of a couple of large buildings with bay doors, Ryerson said.

One of the victims died at the scene and another was pronounced dead at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, said Hernandez. The three surviving victims are in critical condition, said hospital spokesman Keith Bowermaster.

The suspect worked at Penske for several years, but it was unclear when and why he left.

The gunman first confronted someone in the parking lot before moving to the truck bay area, shooting victims along the way, said Hernandez. He did not try to enter the building’s second floor, which houses a small administration office.

A man who witnessed the arrest said the suspect looked “out of his mind” and “all drugged up.”

“The cops walked up on both sides of the truck, he opened the door and they threw him on the ground. He pretty much just gave up,” Michael Robertson told The Associated Press.

Penske said it was a very traumatic day.

“We want to extend our deepest concerns and sympathies for the victims of today’s shootings,” Ryerson said.

It is the second workplace shooting this month. Timothy Hendron, an employee at ABB Inc. electrical plant in St. Louis, is accused of shooting hundreds of rounds of ammunition through the sprawling plant as about 50 workers sought refuge. Authorities say he killed three men and injured five others before killing himself.

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2 rare Siberian tigers among dead circus cats

by Maideline Sanchez | December 24, 2009

From the Associated Press 

MOSCOW – Two rare Siberian tigers were among a group of big cats in a Russian traveling circus that died during a 20-hour truck journey this week, a circus administrator said Thursday.

Veterinarians suspect the animals were suffocated by exhaust fumes in the enclosed truck, which was heated to counter outside temperatures below minus-30 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius).

Circus officials and police initially said that eight Bengal tigers had died.

But Mechta circus administrator Yevgeny Kudashkin said there were seven tigers and two were Siberian tigers, which some conservationists fear may be approaching extinction.

The loss of the endangered tigers — also known as Ussuri, Amur or Manchurian tigers — was certain to increase the outrage over the animals’ deaths.

A lioness also died during the trip across Siberia to the city of Yakutsk, where the circus was due to perform.

The animals appear to have been killed by exhaust fumes, Darya Kokhunova, deputy director of the Irkutsk veterinary laboratory, said. She cautioned that the tests were not yet complete.

The Siberian tiger is rapidly disappearing from the forests of Russia’s Far East and the Chinese province of Manchuria due to poaching and loss of habitat.

The New York-based Wildlife Conversation Society estimates that only 300 remain in the wild. They are the largest tiger species, weighing up to 600 pounds (270 kilograms).

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has done much to draw attention to their plight. During a visit to a wildlife preserve in 2008, he shot a female tiger with a tranquilizer gun and helped place a transmitter around her neck as part of a program to track the rare cats.

Later in the year, Putin was given a 2-month-old female Siberian tiger for his birthday. State television showed him at his home gently petting the cub, which was curled up in a wicker basket with a tiger-print cushion. The tiger, called Mashenka, now lives in a zoo in southern Russian.

Tigers remain a popular attraction in many of the dozens of permanent and traveling circuses in Russia.

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