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Legendary author Maya Angelou dies at age 86


(CNN) -- A literary voice revered globally for her poetic command and her commitment to civil rights has fallen silent.


Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, said her literary agent, Helen Brann. Angelou had been "frail" and suffering from heart problems, the agent said.







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Ann B. Davis


Ann Branford Davis, the actress who played the sometimes wacky housekeeper who maintained law and order on “The Brady Bunch,†has died on Sunday morning after falling at her San Antonio home.




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'Godfather of ecstasy', dies aged 88



Alexander Shulgin earned his nickname, the Godfather of ecstasy, after honing a way to make the drug - and testing it out on himself to check it had worked.


Shulgin began his study of organic chemistry at Harvard University in his teens and, after a stint in the US Navy during World War Two, returned to Berkeley to get his PhD in biochemistry at the University of California. In his early working career, he joined Dow Chemical Company and, while there, developed the world's first biodegradable pesticide.

But it was while he was pursuing his own research that he began experimenting with psychoactive compounds. He died surrounded by family and caretakers and Buddhist meditation music.

During the swinging '60s, he says he made and tested hundreds of concoctions. In 1965, he parted company with Dow, but continued his studies and began teaching classes at local universities. Nearly a decade later, he came across a compound closely related to what we now call ecstasy or MDMA. MDMA had been previously synthesised and patented in 1912 by the pharmaceutical company Merck, but was never fully explored within humans.


Shulgin decided to start human trials - again, starting with himself. Once he had fine-tuned his recipe, he introduced the chemical to a psychologist from Oakland called Leo Zeff. And Zeff introduced Shulgin to a lay therapist called Ann, who later became Shulgin's wife. Zeff used small doses of the substance in his practice as an aid to talk therapy, and introduced it to hundreds of psychologists across the nation. Clubbers have been known to use ecstasy so they can dance for hours. In some cases, people have died from taking ecstasy.



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Chester Nez, last of the original Navajo 'Code Talkers,' dead at 93



In Navajo tradition, when someone dies, it is said that he or she has "walked on." Wednesday, Chester Nez, last of the famed Navajo code talkers, walked on. He had turned 93 in January and was living in Albuquerque. He was 21 when he joined the Marines in World War II. He had been specially recruited.


Felicia Fonseca writes:


"Of the 250 Navajos who showed up at Fort Defiance—then a U.S. Army base—29 were selected to join the first all-Native American unit of Marines. They were inducted in May 1942. Nez became part of the 382nd Platoon.


"Using Navajo words for red soil, war chief, clan, braided hair, beads, ant and hummingbird, for example, they came up with a glossary of more than 200 terms that later was expanded and an alphabet.


"Nez has said he was concerned the code wouldn't work. At the time, few non-Navajos spoke the language. Even Navajos who did couldn't understand the code. It proved impenetrable."


Navajo Code Talkers were on the ground with their fellow Marines in every major action in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They proved their value at Guadalcanal, at Tarawa and at the 36-day siege on Iwo Jima. After that immensely bloody battle, Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, said: "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."


Nez wrote two memoirs, the first of his time in the Marine Corps, Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII and a second The Life and Times of the Code Talker. The latter covers his growing up in the New Mexico part of the Navajo Nation and the years after World War II, with ample attention to his culture and traditions.


Altogether, before war's end, 421 Navajo warriors enlisted in the Marines and learned how to give Japanese intelligence headaches. On Jan. 23, the last surviving member of the original 29 enlistees, Chester Nez, celebrated his 92nd birthday. Without them, their commanders and other officers have said, American casualties in battles for Japanese-held islands would have been far more ghastly than they were.


Those 29 and all the other Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy in case the code had to be used after the war ended. It was, in Korea and Vietnam.


It was not until 1968 that the code and the story of its crucial role were declassified, freeing those who invented and used it to tell their experiences. Since then, more than 500 books have been written, several documentaries have been produced, Hollywood made a version called Windtalkers, a film that spends more of its time following Nick Cage around than it does Adam Beach (Saulteaux), who for his role spent six months learning Diné, the Navajo language. Famed sculptor Oreland Joe (Navajo-Ute) created the Navajo Code Talker Memorial at the Navajo Tribal Park & Veterans Memorial at Window Rock, Arizona.


Yet, although President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14, 1982, National Navajo Code Talkers Day, it wasn't until Dec. 21, 2000, 56 years after they first saw action, that the five surviving original Code Talkers and relatives of the other 24 received Congressional Gold Medals for their innovativeness and heroism. The other Code Talkers were awarded Congressional Silver Medals. The belated awards contained a deep irony. Many of these men who had saved untold numbers of American lives by using their Native language had been punished for speaking that same language when they were children forced to attend boarding schools where the goal was to take the Indian out of them.


It may come as a surprise to many who are acquainted with the story of the Code Talkers that the Navajos weren't the only Indians used for code work. And they weren't the first. The Army used eight Chocktaw speakers to confuse German troops in 1918. In the the next war, the Army in both the Pacific and Europe used Lakota speakers, Oneidas, Chippewas, Pimas, Hopis, Choctaws, Sac and Fox and Comanches. But those Indians simply talked to each other in their Native language. The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers developed a real code. They could not even be understood by other speakers of Navajo.







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Karen DeCrow, president of NOW in the mid 1970's, died at age 76. It was under her stewardship that the equal rights for women amendment was proposed and ultimately ran out of time before getting 3/4 of the States to ratify it. She, through NOW, pushed Congress to pass Article IX, which opened up College athletics to many more women. She may have been, in part, one of the women who inspired Rush Limbaugh to coin the term "Feminine Nazi."


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