Islam Bibi

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Law

Lt. Islam Bibi’s decision to become a police officer would not have raised eyebrows in the west. But signing up for such a dangerous job in southern Afghanistan turned her into a symbol of female empowerment.

Under the Taliban rule, women were banned from working outside of the home. They could not receive an education after the age of 8, be treated by male doctors or ride a bicycle. Women were not allowed to drive, vote, play sports, run for public office or appear on radio or television. On the rare occasions when women were allowed to leave their homes, they were required to wear a burqa, a garment that covered them from head to toe, and be accompanied by a close male relative.

Violating any of these rules, which were enforced by the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice, could lead to verbal abuse, beatings and execution. The religious police even punished rape victims — who were considered guilty of adultery and fornication — by publicly flogging or stoning them for their “crimes.”

Experts believe that 60 to 80 percent of Afghan marriages were arranged by force. According to a report by UN Women and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 56 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan occurred when the bride was under the age of 16. Domestic violence is endemic, and many women choose suicide to escape.

After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the Karzai administration relaxed policies concerning women’s rights. Afghanistan’s new constitution, which was adopted in 2004, also recognized the equality of men and women, yet much of the country’s male population clung to the Taliban’s ultra-conservative outlook.

In the past decade, Afghan women have slowly started to emerge from the prisons that were their homes. They have removed the burqa, opened small businesses and even sent their daughters to school. These actions involved a great deal of courage since the Taliban continued to wage war on them by poisoning water supplies, fire-bombing schools, killing teachers and throwing acid on female students.

Bibi was one of those brave women.

At 10, she was forced to marry a man who was 43. Bibi had the first of her five children when she was just 15. Then in 2004, she decided to join the Afghan National Police because she needed a salary and wanted to create a safer future for her three sons and two daughters.

“Firstly I needed the money, but secondly I love my country,” Bibi said in April. “I feel proud wearing the uniform and I want to try to make Afghanistan a better and stronger country.”

As a police officer, Bibi enforced security, searched passengers at the airport, trained other female officers and protected voters at polling stations. She even single-handedly stopped a would-be suicide bomber from detonating his explosives by throwing herself on top of him when he resisted arrest.

Over the next nine years, Bibi rose through the ranks to become the most senior female officer serving in the Helmand province. She commanded a team of nearly three dozen female officers in the criminal investigation department in Lashkar Gah, and was often profiled in the international press as a role model.

For this, Bibi was regularly intimidated by insurgents and opium smugglers, and received numerous death threats. Some of those threats came from her own family. Her brother was so hell-bent on killing her for having the temerity to work that the government eventually decided to take away his gun.

On July 4, the extremists succeeded in stopping Bibi. She was riding a motorbike to work alongside her son-in-law when two gunmen opened fire. Bibi was seriously injured in the attack, and later died in the emergency room. Her son-in-law was also wounded.

She was 37.


Gary David Goldberg

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Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Gary David Goldberg Gary David Goldberg, the Emmy-winning creator of “Family Ties,” died on June 23 of brain cancer. He was 68.

Born in Brooklyn, Goldberg was raised in a home with a close, extended family that was headed by a strong matriarch, his grandmother. He was a huge sports fan and a wanderer who had a bit of trouble figuring out what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Goldberg’s collegiate career, which he described as “prolonged and checkered,” involved attending numerous schools, including Brandeis University and San Diego State University. He only decided to become a scriptwriter at the urging of one of his professors.

Goldberg was working as a waiter at the Village Gate club in Greenwich Village in 1969 when he met his wife and the love his life, Dr. Diana Meehan. They were a couple of hippies — a product of their time — and spent the early part of their marriage traveling around the world, then running a day care center in Berkeley, Calif. Their relationship would later serve as the backdrop of one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

Goldberg broke into show business in the mid-1970s, penning scripts for “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Lou Grant,” “The Tony Randall Show” and “The Last Resort.” He won his first Emmy Award in 1977 for his work on the CBS drama “Lou Grant,” a spin-off of the successful series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

In 1981, Goldberg formed his own production company, UBU Productions. He would eventually produce nine TV shows, including the CBS program “Brooklyn Bridge,” a semi-autobiographical series about his childhood.

UBU Productions’ first endeavor, however, was “Family Ties,” a half-hour comedy about two left-wing parents raising three children, including a son who was very conservative. By its third season, “Family Ties” had become part of NBC’s much-touted and wildly popular “Must-See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show, which ran for seven seasons, earned Goldberg a second Emmy and transformed a very young actor by the name of Michael J. Fox into a star.

Goldberg later reunited with Fox for “Spin City,” another popular comedy that aired for six seasons on ABC. Interestingly, Fox once told Goldberg that if he hadn’t been cast in “Family Ties,” he would have given up acting entirely and returned home to Canada. Instead Fox found fame and fortune on the big and small screens. Actress Tracy Pollan, who played Fox’s girlfriend Ellen on “Family Ties,” later became his wife.

Goldberg received numerous honors for his work in Hollywood, including a Golden Globe, a Peabody, two Writers Guild Awards, five Humanitas Awards, the Producers Guild Award and the Valentine Davis Award. He was also a member of the Broadcasting Magazine Hall of Fame.

Even if TV audiences didn’t know his name, they certainly recognized Goldberg’s labrador retriever, who appeared in the closing credits of each show with the memorable tagline “Sit, Ubu, sit.” The tagline later served as the title of Goldberg’s 2008 autobiography. The book also featured the hilarious subtitle: “How I went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the same woman, the same dog and a lot less hair.”

But TV wasn’t Goldberg’s only medium. He also wrote and directed the films “Dad,” “Bye Bye Love” and “Must Love Dogs,” and published several blog items for The Huffington Post.

Goldberg is survived by his wife and two daughters, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, the Emmy-winning writer and producer of “Friends”; and Cailin Goldberg-Meehan, a freelance writer and contributor to The Huffington Post.

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post


Jairo Mora Sandoval

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Jairo Mora Sandoval Costa Rican environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval was passionate about protecting endangered leatherback turtles and their nests. That noble work may have cost him his life.

He was killed on May 31 at the age of 26.

Mora Sandoval was born in Costa Rica and became an animal lover at an early age. Nicknamed “Seal,” he grew up on a farm in Mata de Limon, rode horses and helped his family care for the area’s sea turtles. As a young adult, Mora Sandoval studied biology and worked for the animal rescue group Paradero Eco-Tour. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), a nonprofit group that protects turtle nests from poachers on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Leatherback turtles are the largest of living turtles, growing up to 7 feet and 2,000 pounds. While they play an important role in marine ecology by keeping jellyfish populations down, humans continue to decimate their nesting areas. Currently, the leatherback is listed as a critically endangered species whose numbers have reportedly fallen to almost one-fifth of what they were in 1980.

Although sea turtles are protected by law in Costa Rica, poachers raid the animals’ nests and sell the eggs on the black market for $1 each. The eggs are often consumed in a drink as an aphrodisiac or traded for drugs. In response, members of WIDECAST patrol the beaches where these turtles lay their eggs.

A few weeks before Mora Sandoval’s death, a team of journalists from La Nacion accompanied him on an overnight patrol. During the interview, he decried the government’s claims that police had been watching over the beaches. Mora Sandoval rescued 172 turtle eggs that night, but looters still managed to destroy nine nests. No police patrols were ever spotted.

In recent years, conservationists have been threatened by “hueveros” (egg thieves) for trying to protect the turtles and their habitat. Mora Sandoval’s friends told the media that he received numerous death threats and was once ordered, at gunpoint, to stop patrolling.

On the night of May 30, Mora Sandoval and four female volunteers were patrolling Moin beach in the Limon province, an area that is frequently used by drug traffickers and turtle egg poachers. The group was ambushed by five armed and masked men, who kidnapped and robbed the women. They later escaped from their attackers and contacted police.

Mora Sandoval’s naked body was found face-down on a beach the next morning. According to WIDECAST director Didiher Chacon, Mora Sandoval was bound and beaten. Autopsy results listed cause of death as asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head.

Since Mora Sandoval’s slaying, WIDECAST has been forced to cancel all patrols at Moin beach, leaving the sea turtle population particularly vulnerable.

“We can’t risk human lives for this project,” Chacon said. “But this is probably the exact result that the killers were hoping for.”

Environmentalists have submitted a proposal to the government asking for park rangers to have more authority to stop poachers and for the designation of a new protected area to be named after Mora Sandoval. Conservation groups have also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killers.

“Jairo’s murderers must be brought to justice so that sea turtle activists around Costa Rica and the world know that this will never be tolerated,” Todd Steiner, executive director of, said. “The whole world is watching to make sure the Costa Rican government brings these thugs to justice and makes sea turtle nesting beaches safe for conservationists to do their work.”


Chris Kelly

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Categories: Musicians, Uncategorized

Chris KellyChris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, one-half of the 1990s rap duo Kris Kross, died May 1 of an apparent drug overdose. He was 34.

Kelly and his partner Chris Smith (a.k.a. “Daddy Mac”), were only 13 years old in 1991 when they were discovered by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri while performing at the Greenbriar Mall in their hometown of Atlanta. Dupri’s label, So So Def, signed the boys and sent them into the studio to record their first album.

As Kris Kross, the pair rocketed to stardom a year later with the release of the single “Jump.” The song spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, became an aerobics anthem and helped their debut album “Totally Krossed Out” go multiplatinum.

Soon Kris Kross was opening for pop star Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour and appearing as guests on numerous TV programs. They recorded the “Rugrats Rap” for Nickelodeon and were listed at number 90 on VH1’s roundup of “The 100 Greatest Kid Stars.”

Kris Kross became a force in fashion as well; the duo was known for wearing their clothes backward during performances, and for a time many youths copied the trend. But it was the combination of their energy and mature rapping skills that earned Kris Kross a strong fan base.

Although future albums failed to match the success of “Totally Krossed Out,” Kris Kross continued to make music for several years, releasing “Da Bomb” in 1993 and “Young, Rich and Dangerous” in 1996. Kelly and Smith recently performed together in February for the So So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert. Other than his talent for rapping, Kelly played the piano and dreamed of running his own record company someday.

Dupri described Kelly as a hard worker and the son he never had.

“His understanding of what we set out to do, from day one was always on point. His passion for the music, his love for doing shows, his want to [be] better than everyone else, was always turnt [sic] up,” Dupri said in a statement.

Smith said Kelly was not only his music partner, but his best friend.

“I love him and will miss him dearly,” Smith said in a statement. “Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection. KRIS KROSS FOREVER, the ‘MAC DADDY’ and ‘DADDY MAC.'”

On Wednesday evening, Kelly was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center and pronounced dead. According to his mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, Kelly had a history of using cocaine and heroin, and had recently returned home to recover from his addiction. A toxicology report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.


Margaret Thatcher

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Categories: Politicians

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to become prime minister of Britain and one of the most divisive political figures of the 20th century, died on April 8 after suffering a stroke. She was 87.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on Oct. 13, 1925, in the small town of Grantham. She came from humble beginnings; her mother, Beatrice, worked as a dressmaker, and her father, Alfred, was a grocer, a lay preacher and a local politician. She had one older sister, Muriel.

Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. After training under Dorothy Hodgkin, a pioneer of X-ray crystallography who won a Nobel Prize in 1964, Thatcher spent four years working as a research chemist. But her first love was politics.

Thatcher gave her first political speech when she was just 20 years old, and served as president of the student Conservative Association at Oxford. In her mid-20s, she ran for a seat in Parliament as a Conservative candidate in 1950 and 1951. Even though she lost both times, Thatcher received national publicity for being the youngest woman candidate in the country.

For most of the 1950s, Thatcher focused on raising a family. She married Denis Thatcher, a local businessman who ran his family’s firm, in 1951; the couple had twins, Mark and Carol, two years later. In her spare time, she studied to become a lawyer, and when she was admitted to the bar, Thatcher specialized in tax law.

In 1959, Thatcher was elected to Parliament representing Finchley, a north London constituency. It was the beginning of a meteoric rise.

Thatcher spent the next decade working a succession of jobs within Parliament, and in 1970, she achieved the rank of Education Secretary. Her right-wing platform did not sit well with students or academics, and it was during this time period that Thatcher developed a thick skin. When she decided to cancel a free school milk program for children over the age of 7, the tabloids described her as “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” and “the most unpopular woman in Britain.”

Despite all the bad publicity, Conservative party members viewed Thatcher as strong, outspoken and ambitious. She engaged in an aggressive campaign against all male contenders, and in 1975, the party elected Thatcher their leader. Although she once said “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime,” Thatcher made history in 1979 when she won the nation’s top job. She would serve three terms, and became one of Britain’s most influential leaders.

Domestically, Thatcher was a controversial figure. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” in 1976, a moniker she adored, Thatcher worked hard to cultivate a reputation as a staunch conservative with an unwillingness to change her mind once it was made up. Throughout her political career, she strongly advocated for austerity measures, free-market democracies and smaller government.

“What we need now is a far greater degree of personal responsibility and decision, far more independence from the government, and a comparative reduction in the role of government,” she noted in her famous “What’s Wrong With Politics?” speech.

With this mindset, Thatcher reduced or eliminated many government subsidies to ailing businesses and tightened monetary policies. In the midst of an economic downturnn, these efforts forced a record 10,000 businesses to go bankrupt. Unemployment topped 3 million. And violent riots broke out in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and many other areas.

The Thatcher administration also instituted union reforms in 1980 and 1982, which inspired the miner’s union to launch a brutal and long-lasting strike. Thatcher remained steadfast, as was her wont, and eventually defeated the union.

During her second and third terms in office, Thatcher reformed the country’s educational system by introducing a national curriculum, and opened up the National Health Service to a measure of competition. These moves were not always popular, but their effects proved enduring.

“I am not a consensus politician,” Thatcher said. “I am a conviction politician.”

British relations with Northern Ireland were particularly contentious during this time. Hunger strikes and terrorist attacks ensued, and in 1984, Thatcher became the target of an Irish Republican Army assassination attempt. The IRA bombing at the Conservative Conference in Brighton did not harm her, but the explosion killed four people and wounded more than 30 others. Undaunted, Thatcher insisted that the conference continue, and even gave her speech as scheduled.

A fierce anti-communist, Thatcher recognized the West’s eventual victory in the Cold War. She famously invited Mikhail S. Gorbachev to Britain in 1984, three months before he even came into power as the leader of the Soviet Union. At the time, Thatcher declared: “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.” Her rapport with this new ally and her friendly relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan contributed to these leaders ending the arms race of the 1980s.

Such kinship did not fade in difficult times, either. Thatcher backed Reagan’s decision to bomb Libya in 1986 — even though the mission outraged her own citizenry — and defended him during the IranContra affair that same year. When Reagan died in 2004, Thatcher was in ill health. However, she attended the funeral, and pre-recorded a video that described Reagan as “a great president, a great American, and a great man.”

Thatcher’s foreign policies did not always stand the test of time. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, Thatcher ignored her allies’ calls for diplomacy and responded with overwhelming military force. During the 10-week war, 250 British servicemen and 1,000 Argentines were killed. The sinking of Argentina’s only cruiser, the General Belgrano, which left 323 Argentines dead, was particularly problematic because the attack took place outside of Britain’s declared exclusion zone. This short war cemented Thatcher’s take-no-prisoners reputation and helped her win a landslide victory for a second term in office. But the political ramifications of the conflict continue to be felt to this day.

Thatcher also came down on the wrong side of history after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The prime minister argued against the reunification of East and West Germany, saying the change would destabilize Europe. The two Germanies reunited, to great success, in 1990.

Her final missteps involved railing against European integration, and the introduction of a poll tax on all residents rather than on property. Both actions cost her political capital within the party and led to her resignation in 1990.

Thatcher’s legacy is certainly a complicated one. She was reviled by Britain’s academic and artistic communities for cutting their financing. And progressives hated her for ending socialism, privatizing government industries and replacing compassion with greed as a core value. Yet Thatcher was respected by many, particularly in conservative circles, for leading the country out of a recession and through a war. She was credited with recognizing the dangers of global warming, and strongly encouraging other nations to repair the damaged ozone layer. She was also one of the first Western leaders to call for intervention in Bosnia after the Serb concentration camps were revealed in 1992.

Actress Meryl Streep, who won an Academy Award for portraying Thatcher in the 2011 film “The Iron Lady,” hailed the former prime minister as a pioneer for the role of women in politics.

“To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and ideas — wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now — without corruption — I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle,” Streep said. “To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.”

Thatcher was named Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven after stepping off the political stage. In 1991, she received the U.S. Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush. Thatcher’s husband of more than 50 years died in 2003. In 2004, her son Mark was arrested for financing an alleged plot by mercenaries to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea in west Africa. He pleaded guilty in 2005 and was given a four-year suspended sentence.

During the final years of her life, Thatcher wrote several books and toured the world as a lecturer. Her speaking career ended in 2002 following a series of small strokes and the onset of dementia. In accordance with the family’s wishes, Thatcher will not be accorded a full state funeral. Instead, she will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honors. A service at St. Paul’s Cathedral will be followed by a private cremation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to his predecessor on Monday morning.

“We’ve lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton,” Cameron said.

Photo by Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Margaret Thatcher: A Life In Pictures


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