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Susana Chavez

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Susana Chavez spent the final years of her life trying to halt feminicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Earlier this month, she ended up joining the ranks of the town’s many victims.

Located across the border from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world’s deadliest cities as the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels battle for control of smuggling routes. But even before rampant drug violence took over the headlines, the city was infamous for a series of murders. Since 1993, hundreds of women and teenage girls have been raped, killed and dumped in the desert. More than 3,000 are still missing.

Several men have confessed to the slayings, and two were convicted, but the vast majority of the cases remain unsolved. From 2003 to 2006, a federal commission studied the cases, in hopes of uncovering the truth behind allegations of state police corruption and incompetence. However, no additional charges were filed after the inquiry ended — mostly due to lack of evidence. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Mexican government negligent on preventing violence against the women of Ciudad Juarez.

Born in 1974, Chavez began writing when she was only 11 years old. She grew up in Ciudad Juarez, became a well-respected poet, published the book “Song to a City in the Desert” and studied psychology at the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez. She was also a human rights activist and a prominent member of May Our Daughters Return Home, a group comprised of the family and friends of the slain women and girls.

Chavez was determined to stop the killings and frequently blasted local authorities for failing to end the feminicide and bring the killers to justice. She even coined the phrase “Ni una muerta mas” (“Not One More Dead”), which became a popular rallying cry at demonstrations against the continued violence.

On the night of Jan. 5, Chavez, 36, was reportedly hanging out with three young men when an argument ensued. The men attacked her, covering her face with tape and drowning her until she suffocated. The trio then used a saw to cut off her hand and dumped her body on the street.

Authorities later arrested three suspects, who are all members of the local drug gang Azteca. According to Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, the suspects said they found it “easy” to kill Chavez and forgot that they had left her hand back at the house.

The Mexican Congress’ Standing Commission and the National Commission on Human Rights have condemned the Chavez murder. And Amnesty International has called on authorities to conduct “a prompt, impartial investigation that is in keeping with international standards.”

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Geraldine Doyle

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Before World War II, 12 million American women worked outside the home, usually in traditionally female and poorly paid occupations, like the service sector. The rest of the female population generally married, raised children and volunteered for social and religious organizations. But when the fighting in Europe and Japan called men away from their jobs, 6 million additional women left the home and supported the war effort by entering the work force.

One woman who answered the call was Geraldine Hoff Doyle of Lansing, Mich. After graduating from high school, the 17-year-old cellist took a job at the American Broach & Machine Co., a metal-processing plant in Ann Arbor. Doyle was wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna and leaning over a piece of machinery one day when a United Press International photographer took her picture. That image inspired J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee, to illustrate a poster featuring a woman wearing a similar bandanna and the motto: “We Can Do It!”.

The woman in the poster became known as a “Rosie the Riveter,” after a 1942 song of the same name, and she helped to encourage women to find jobs and achieve their economic independence. When the war ended and the men returned home, women were generally expected to return to their domestic lives, but Doyle’s famous poster empowered some to buck tradition and take control of their own destiny.

Doyle actually left her factory job shortly after the photograph was taken because a co-worker had badly injured her hands while toiling at the machines. Fearing a similar fate, Doyle took safer jobs, like working at a soda fountain and a book store. She wed Leo Doyle, a young dental school student, and together they raised six children. Over the course of their 66-year marriage, the couple also ran a successful dental practice in Lansing. He died in February 2010.

Doyle didn’t realize her place in women’s history until the early 1980s when she saw an article in Modern Maturity magazine, and connected the UPI photo of her younger self with the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster. The image also appeared on the cover of the Time-Life book “The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950.” The “We Can Do It!” poster was later used by the feminist movement of the 1970sĀ and 1980s and appeared on a 33-cent stamp issued in 1999 by the U.S. Postal Service.

Another Michigan woman, Rose Will Monroe, who was featured in a promotional film about women factory workers, was also a well-known “Rosie.” When people would call Doyle a “Rosie the Riveter,” she would always correct them and say she was the ‘We Can Do It!” girl.

Doyle died on Dec. 26 from complications of severe arthritis. She was 86.

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A Look Back

Categories: Misc.

hourglass.jpgSome people view obituaries as morbid stories, but in truth only one line of an obit deals with death. The rest of the story focuses on the amazing lives people lead. In 2010, these 10 obituaries were the stories that most resonated with me:

* Robert B. Parker, the bestselling mystery writer who created Spenser, a tough Boston private detective who was the hero of nearly 40 novels

* Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person who was ever officially recognized as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings at the end of World War II

* Eugene Allen, a former White House butler who worked for eight presidents

* Isaac Bonewits, an author, educator and archdruid emeritus of Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship

* Jack Horkheimer, the award-winning astronomer who entertained millions as the host of the PBS show “Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer”

* Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Senator John Edwards who publicly struggled with incurable cancer and her husband’s infidelity

* Daniel Schorr, a journalist who was barred from the U.S.S.R. for repeatedly defying Soviet censors and ended up on President Richard Nixon’s Enemies List

* Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who served 51 years in the United States Senate, longer than anyone else in history

* Bob Guccione, the founder and former chief executive of Penthouse magazine

* Howard Zinn, historian, civil rights activist and author of “A People’s History of the United States”

To all of you who’ve lost someone dear, may they rest in peace.

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Andy Irons

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Categories: Sports

airons.jpgFormer world champion surfer Philip Andrew Irons was hooked on the sport from his very first wave. In an interview with ISurfBecause, he described riding that wave as one of the purest moments of his life.
“I went left, right, left and the wave never broke. And I thought right then, ‘This is the coolest thing in the world,’” he said.
Born in Hawaii, Irons was raised by his mother, a shop clerk, and his father, a carpenter, in Kauai. He and his brother Bruce learned how to surf as children on the dangerous reefs of the North Shore. He joined surfing’s Top 44 on the 1998 World Tour when he was only 17 years old.
Irons struggled with anger issues, loneliness, substance abuse and a frustration with the promotional aspects of his career, but his inner demons were silenced when he was riding the waves. In the water, Irons’ talent and drive helped him to win three Quiksilver Pro France titles, two Rip Curl Pro Search titles and 20 elite tour victories including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing four times from 2002 to 2006. He was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in 2008.
His competitive nature also got him into trouble. Public, mid-competition fights with his brother were not uncommon, and his rivalry with champion surfer Kelly Slater made headlines for years. Slater had six world titles under his belt when Irons defeated him in 2002. Irons won again in 2003 and 2004, which earned him a reputation as a king-slayer. Slater emerged from semi-retirement, and reclaimed the title in 2005. The clash of titans came to a head the following year at the Pipeline Masters final when the pair battled the waves, and each other. After 35 grueling minutes, Irons earned a perfect 10 and won the competition.
Irons left the tour in 2009 to “get back to surfing for fun.” A year later he returned to the competitive arena to stage a comeback. Irons was supposed to compete in the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Search in Puerto Rico, but withdrew from the event for health reasons.
Irons’ body was found in a Dallas-area hotel room on Nov. 2. Cause of death is under investigation, though police said there were no signs of trauma or foul play. He was 32. At the time of his death, Irons’ wife, Lyndie, was expecting their first child.
[Update - Dec. 16, 2010: Andrew Axel Irons was born to Lyndie Irons, widow of Andy Irons, on Dec. 16.]
[Update - June 11, 2011: Autopsy results showed that Andy Irons died from a sudden heart attack due to severe hardening of the arteries. A secondary cause of death was listed as "acute mixed drug ingestion. Toxicology tests found found methadone, Xanax, benzoylecgonine and a "trace amount of methamphetamine" in his system.]

–Photo by Jose Goulao. Used with permission

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Bob Guccione

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Categories: Business

Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione, the founder and former chief executive of Penthouse magazine, was a man who took calculated risks. Some paid off, others cost him millions.
The Brooklyn native originally planned to become a Catholic priest, and even attended the seminary, but dropped out when puberty caused his hormones to kick in. He wed at 18 and fathered a daughter named Toni, but the marriage foundered, and Guccione headed to Europe to work as a painter and journalist. He wed a second time, to British singer Muriel Hudson, and fathered four more children (Bob Jr., Nina, Anthony and Nick); however, his habit of amassing large debts ended that union.
Unable to make a decent living as an artist, Guccione next decided to try his luck at pornographic publishing. With less than $2,000 on hand, he launched Penthouse in 1965 as a low-brow competitor to Playboy, the glamorous adult magazine run by Hugh Hefner. In the magazine’s early years, Guccione couldn’t afford professional talent so he ended up photographing most of the models. He enjoyed pushing boundaries with each spread, and bragged about his decision to publish “lesbians, threesomes, full-frontal male nudity, erect penises.” Tabloid journalism, a racy letters column and beautiful centerfold models known as “Pets” helped Penthouse find an audience in the U.K. and the U.S. At its peak in the 1970s, Penthouse reportedly sold nearly 5 million copies a month.
Penthouse also inflamed the public’s passions with its controversial offerings. Feminists and conservatives blasted its raunchy content. In 1984, the magazine ran a sexually explicit pictorial of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to win the title of Miss America. The pictures cost Williams her crown, but generated $14 million in profit for Guccione.
A year later, Guccione offered the serial killer known as The Unabomber a monthly column in Penthouse if he promised to stop taking lives. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. The Unabomber, gave Guccione permission to print his unedited manifesto, but with one caveat: he reserved the right to murder one more person. Guccione refused to take the bait. A tip from Kaczynski’s brother led to his capture in 1996. Kaczynski later pleaded guilty to 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing and using bombs and three counts of murder, and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Penthouse began to lose readers in 1986 when U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography issued a report attacking the adult entertainment industry, prompting newsstands and convenience stores to pull the publication from their racks. In the 1990s, sales took a hit as subscribers began to seek out free porn and X-rated video online.
Although Guccione was once listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people ($400 million net worth in 1982), bad investments and risky ventures eventually cost him much of his fortune. He spent $17.5 million producing an X-rated version of “Caligula.” The 1979 film, which starred Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, tanked at the box office. He tried to open a $200 million casino in Atlantic City but a stubborn resident and a licensing issue stalled construction for years. Guccione was forced to pay $45 million in back taxes in 1985 and another $80 million in 1992. And in 2003, General Media, the publishing arm of Penthouse International, declared bankruptcy.
His personal life was no less tumultuous. Guccione’s third wife, Kathy Keeton, an exotic dancer who was entrusted with the financial management of his publishing empire, died in 1997 from breast cancer. Her death affected him deeply. He wed a fourth time in 2006, to exotic dancer April Dawn Warren, but spent much of their marriage battling throat and lung cancer. Relations with some of his children also fell apart over money matters. In recent years, soaring debts forced Guccione to sell off many of his possessions, including an impressive art collection and his 27-room mansion in Manhattan.
Guccione died on Oct. 20 of lung cancer. He was 79.

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