Arlington Cemetery's Gravesites Now Searchable

Arlington National Cemetery recently launched a searchable database that will help people "find gravesites and explore Arlington's rich history" with apps for Apple products, Android, Blackberrys, as well as a desktop version.

Arlington's website says, "The Army photographed 259,978 gravesites, niches and markers using a custom-built smart phone application and instituted a rigorous process to review each headstone photo with existing cemetery records and other historical documents. The end result was the creation of a single, verifiable and authoritative database of all those laid to rest at Arlington that is linked to the Arlington's digital mapping system."

Russell Means, activist/advocate for Indian rights, has died

Russell Means, the Oglala Lakota Indian (Means said the designation "Sioux" was derogatory) whose controversial political activism on behalf of America's Indian tribes first became headlines in the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, died today on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Born on Pine Ridge in 1939, Means' transfer to a nearly all-white California high school resulted in daily relentless bullying. First Means fought back, then he fell into alcohol and substance abuse for several years before getting his footing in 1969 at the American Indian Center in Cleveland, OH. It was in Ohio that Means met Dennis Banks, co-founder of the new American Indian Movement.

In 1972, Means and other prominent Indian activists organized a mass demonstration on Washington, D.C. to coincide with the election. The housing they were promised by the Department of Interior was rat-iinfested and overcrowded so the demonstrators took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs and renamed it the Native American Embassy.They were evicted four days later when they were promised that investigations of programs that were supposed to help Indians would take place.

Three months later, Means and 200 armed supporters began a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee where, in 1890, the U.S. military massacred more than 300 men, women, and children of the Sioux/Lakota tribe.Several weeks later, Means went to Washington, D.C. to try to broker an end to the siege. He was arrested and jailed when he rejected the unconditional surrender offer. The remaining protesters surrendered on May 8th, 1973. Means and other principles talked about this action in the 2005 documentary Wounded Heart: Pine Ridge and the Sioux.

His 1974 trial for his role in Wounded Knee ended after seven months when the Judge dismissed all charges after it was revealed that a member of Means' own defense team was an FBI informant who supplied information to the prosecution.

In 1994, Means sought the limelight on the silver screen. He played Chingachgook in the 1992 move, The Last of the Mohicans. Means' autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means, was published in 1995. He used this venue to rail against the term 'Native Americans' and the whole notion of Native American Heritage Month.

Means was just a few weeks shy of his 73rd when he died of esophegeal cancer.

Senator George McGovern has died

Sen.George McGovern, decorated WW II pilot in the Army, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, of the U.S. Senate, and a two-time Democratic candidate for President of the United States, and a United Nations ambassador, died October 21st in Sioux Falls, SD.

McGovern, born in S. Dakota in 1922, had an illustrious political career marked by his unwavering commitment to progressive principles. He was an early and unwavering voice opposing the Vietnam war, an advocate for the eradication of hunger in the U.S. and worldwide , and always a champion for civil rights.

He joined the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked and became a fighter pilot of great courage. When his plane was severely crippled by flak in December of 1944, McGovern managed to land the plane safely, saving the lives of his crew. A grateful nation awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1957 to 1961 and in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981.

He ran for President twice; once, briefly in 1968. Four years later, he won the nomination of his party, but suffered an insurmountable blow with his choice of Thomas Eagleton as his Vice Presidential pick and with his unpopular opposition to the war in Vietnam. He lost to Richard Nixon in an epic landslide. He won just 17 electoral votes (Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.) to Nixon’s 520.

Sen. McGovern remained an active citizen of the world and a tireless force to push the Democratic party to strongly embrace principles of idealism and concern for the common citizen. He wrote several books; the last one, What It Means to Be a Democrat, was released last year.

Earlier this month, his family released a statement that Sen. McGovern had been admitted to a Sioux Falls, South Dakota hospice. He was 90 years old.

Hilary Mantel wins her SECOND Man Booker Prize

Last night in England, British author Hilary Mantel broke several literary records when she captured the 2012 Man Booker Prize for her novel, Bring Up the Bodies, the second entry in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell.

She was the first woman to win the Booker twice. In 2009, she got the nod for the trilogy's first book, Wolf Hall; no other Booker author has won for a sequel. And neither of the other two double-Booker winner -- Peter Carey and J.M. Coetzee -- took home the top honors in such a short amount of time.

In Wolf Hall, Cromwell counsels King Henry VIII on the latter's seven year quest to marry Anne Boleyn. In Bring Up the Bodies, Henry now has buyer's remorse and again, Cromwell steps in to give the Kiing what he wants.

Sir Peter Stothard, chair of the judging panel had this to say about Ms. Mantel's historic accomplishment: "This is a unique accolade. This is something that no other woman has done before. This is an extraordinary book in its own right.It’s about novels, not novelists. It’s about texts, not reputations.This prize was set up for books that will be around for decades to come. They are texts that will live on because each time you read them it’s a different text".

Ms. Mantel's accomplishments are all the more remarkable for the personal struggles she has fought all her life. Plagued by health ailments from a young age which were misdiagnosed and which frequently drained her energy. She wrote of these challenges in her 2003 memoir, Giving Up the Ghost.

The Man Book Prize is given to an author from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or Ireland. The winner goes home with a purse of £50,000, instant international recognition and skyrocketing sales.

Ms. Mantel, who is 60, is already hard at work on the conclusion of her massive, compulsively readable trilogy.

Arlen Specter, longtime U.S. Senator, has died

Arlen Specter, a tough-as-nails Senator from Pennsylvania for almost 30 years, died yesterday at his home in Philadelphia.

Specter was a sandwich Republican (he began and ended his long political career as a Democrat) from 1965 to 2009 who was known for being a moderate in an increasingly hard right Party. He thrived on using his Yale law degree as a member and Chair of the Judiciary Committee where he infuriated the GOP by sinking the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork and by enraging the Democrats with his unbridled interrogation of Anita Hill during the successful confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In 2009, Specter returned to his Democratic roots in his run in the primary for his Senate seat which he lost to Joe Sestak who, in turn, lost the Senate race to Republican Pat Toomey.

Earlier this year, Sen. Specter published a book with Charles Robbins about the struggle within the GOP for its future direction. Life among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing as We Know It. He describes his role in creating the Tea Party and his two deciding votes which helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 a.k.a. the stimulus, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Senator Specter, who had battled several bouts of cancer and heart trouble, died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 82.

Gary Collins, actor and host of the Miss America Pageant, has died

Gary Collins, TV and movie actor and longtime host of the Miss America Pageant, died October 13th in Biloxi, MS.

While serving in the Army, Collins was hit with the acting bug with performances on the Armed Forces Network.

During his long acting career, he had roles in such popular TV shows as The Virginian, Charlie's Angels, Perry Mason, The Love Boat and JAG. He a role in the nail-biting plane disaster movie, Airport (1970), starring Burt Lancaster and Jean Seberg.

From 1982 to 1990, Collins hosted the Miss America Pageant.

Mr. Collins, who is survived by his wife of 45 years, actress Mary Ann Mobley, was 74 years old.

Mo Yan wins the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature

Chinese novelist, Mo Yan, has a huge new addition to his growing collection of impressive awards. The Nobel Foundation announced in Sweden this morning that Mo Yan is the recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature.

In bestowing the honor on one of China's most prominent authors, the Swedish Academy said this: "...[Mo Yan], with hallucinatory realism, merges folk tales, history and the contemporary".

Born in 1955, Mo Yan (which means 'Don't Speak") has an international reputation for his brilliant provocative writings. His 1987 novel, Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, which was translated into English in 1993, is set in the 1930s when Chinese peasants not only fought the Japanese invaders, but they battled each other as well. His movie treatment of this novel resulted in several impressive international awards.

The Garlic Ballads, written in 1988, translated to English in 1995, resulted in being censured by the People's Republic of China for taking the Communist party to task for its cruel corruption.

The New York Times particularly liked his Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, which appeared in the U.S. in 2006. It called this novel of magic realism "...harsh and gritty, raunchy and funny."

Mo Yan receives £741,000 along with his medal.

Alex Karras, former Detroit Lions defensive tackle, and Hollywood actor, has died

Alex Karras, a Detroit Lion for twelve seasons and an actor for many years, died today in Los Angeles.

In 1958, Karras was a first round draft pick for the Lions. He was a member of the Lions' Fearsome Foursome (a term used in pro football to describe the frontline defense. The other Lions players were Roger Brown, Darris McCord, and Sam Williams. Karras was suspended in 1963 for one year when he was caught placing bets on NFL teams. He returned to the team in 1964 and played for seven more years.

In the mid-1970s, he called the plays, with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell, on ABC's Monday Night Football.

His most memorable Hollywood role was in the the 1974 hit western satire, Blazing Saddles in which he played the Mondo.

He and his real-life wife, Susan Clark, who survives, starred in the TV sitcom, Webster (1983-1987) (the first season is on order), along with Emmanuel Lewis. Karras and Clark played the adoptive parents of the orphaned son of a pro football player.

Karras, who was 77, died from complications due to cancer and dementia.

2012 National Book Award finalists have been announced

This morning, nineteen writers moved closer to their dream of winning one of the prestigious National Book Awards for 2012 when they were named as finalists.

The National Book Awards were begun in 1936. A break of several years around World War II ended in 1950 when they resumed. These awards are bestowed on U.S. authors who publish in this country.

Below are some of the authors who made it to the finalists' list.

In the Fiction category, Ben Fountain was one of five authors to get the nod. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Fountain's debut novel, takes place over the 2004 Thanksgiving Day weekend, 19-year-old Billy is between tours of duty in Iraq. His unit, Bravo Company, is being feted at the Dallas Cowboys football game with all the attendant hoopla. A searing look at the toll the Iraq war has taken on those who have served.

The late Anthony Shadid is one of the authors named in the Nonfiction category for his moving House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author took a break from journalism to return to his village in Lebanon to restore the Shadid family's ancestral home. Kirkus Reviews wrote of this book, "A complicated, elegiac, beautiful attempt to reconcile the physical bayt (home) and the spiritual." Shadid, who was shot and kidnapped during his long courageous career as a foreign correspondent, died February 16, 2012, of an asthma attack.

Poet Cynthia Huntington is a finalist for Heavenly Bodies, a collection of poetry that stuns and shocks and provokes with her observations about the sexual revolution, the drug culture, and political upheaval that rocked the 1960s.

The critics were unanimous in their praise of Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin who has written a nonfiction thriller for tweens. Divided into three parts, Sheinkin writes of the development of the bomb, the Soviet spy system that tried to steal it, and the Americans' frantic efforts to keep the bomb out of German hands.

For a complete list of the finalists, check out this link.

The winners in the four categories will be announced on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. At that time two additional special awards will be given: Michigan novelist Elmore Leonard will receive the 2012 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. will accept the 2012 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Sulzberger is the Publisher (since 1992) and Chairman of the Board (since 1997) of the New York Times, positions previously held by his father, the late Arthur Ochs Sulzberger who died September 29 of this year.

Both Sides Now: The Statewide Ballot Proposals on CTN

The League of Women Voters will examine the pros and cons of the six statewide ballot proposals as well as the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti ballot proposals on CTN, Community Television Network, beginning Wednesday, October 10. Viewers can also stream the program on demand from links on the CTN homepage.

The LWV also helps sponsor, the online election source that lets voters build their own ballot with an online voters' guide. Type in your address to see the races on your ballot. Candidates' positions can be compared side-by-side, and you may print out a "ballot" indicating your preferences as a reminder and take it with you to the polls on Election Day.

To double-check your voter registration status, your polling location, view your sample ballot and much more, visit the State of Michigan's Michigan Votes web site.

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