David Rakoff, beloved NPR humorist and author, has died

David Rakoff, whose special, sweet gift for humor and sympathy, died last night at home in Manhattan.

A Canadian by birth, great friends with Amy and David Sedaris, Rakoff stole the hearts of This American Life fans on NPR / Public Radio International with his hilarious contributions, told with a calm charm that delighted.

Rakoff wrote just three collections of essays. In his first, Fraud (2001), he wrote of his first battle with cancer. His third book, Half Empty (2010), won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

When his cancer returned, Rakoff did not go gentle into that good night. In a powerful New York Times Magazine piece published in April of 2011, Rakoff wrote about the diagnosis that his cancer was terminal: "It leaves you exposed, like grabbing onto the trunk of a tree for support in a storm only to find the wood soaked through and punky and coming apart in your hands."

The announcement on Twitter today of Mr. Rakoff's passing, saw a flood of sorrowful tweets that brought him to the top of the Trending list. He was only 47.

Ann Arbor District Library is one of 5 Downtown establishments with the highest bus usage

The Ann Arbor District Library was cited by GetDowntown in this announcement as being one of the Top 5 Downtown establishments that use the AATA bus system the most.

GetDowntown was established in 1999. In cooperation with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, a.k.a. The Ride, the City of Ann Arbor, and the Downtown Development Authority, GetDowntown is a tireless promoter of thinking green when it comes to workers in the Downtown area.

Among the many activities GetDowntown promotes are the go!pass (downtown employees can ride the bus for free), the annual Commuter Challenge, a fun-filled competitive event that rewards the business with the most 'green' miles racked by a business's employees, and ZipCars.

This is just one more reason to love living in Ann Arbor.

Judith Crist, sharp-tongued, powerful movie critic, has died

Judith Crist, one of the most widely-read, feared movie critics for more than 30 years, died today at her home in Manhattan.

Ms. Crist's skewering of popular movies was legendary.She labeled The Sound of Music (1965) "Icky-sticky". According to Crist, Anne Bancroft, who starred in The Pumpkin Eater (1964), had "...no aspirations or intellect above her pelvis."

She had a stint on the Today Show. Among her impressive print credentials, she was a critic for the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune, and in TV Guide which hired her in 1966, fired her in 1983, and came crawling back three weeks later after a huge public outcry, offering her a raise and a job for five more years.

Her half-century career as a Professor at the Columbia Journalism School ended in February of this year.

Ms. Crist was 90.

Marvin Hamlisch, award-winning composer extraordinaire, has died

Marvin Hamlisch, who gave us so much wonderful, toe-tapping music, died yesterday in Los Angeles.

Hamlisch composed, arranged, and conducted music for some of the most popular movies and plays to hit the silver screen and Broadway respectively. In 1974, he became the first person to win three Oscars in one night -- Best Score for the Robert Redford / Barbra Streisand hit, The Way We Were; Best Song for The Way We Were from that movie; Best Adaptation (of Scott Joplin's rags) in the Robert Redford / Paul Newman hit, The Sting. That year, his winning song, The Way We Were, also won his second of two Golden Globes.

His music for Chorus Line won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976.

He also nabbed four Emmys, four Grammys, and a Tony.

His musical genius was discovered early. He was the youngest student (age seven) to be admitted to the Julliard School of Music.

Mr. Hamlisch, who was 68, died after a brief illness.

More elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect August 1

On Wednesday, August 1, several more benefits that are part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) are now in effect. This week's changes affect women’s health care. Women with health insurance will now see the following changes:

* A free annual well-woman visit with follow-up visits, if necessary.
* Women over 30 can be tested for HPV (Human papillomavirus) every three years.
* Pregnant women can receive free testing for gestational diabetes. This will ensure that they get the proper care for a safe pregnancy.
*Pregnant women can now receive support for breastfeeding, including equipment for new mothers returning to work
*Women are now able to receive free contraception

For a full explanation of this new law, including the elements that went into effect in 2010 (such as, no more denial for pre-exisiting conditions; all children are now covered up to age 26, regardless of marital or student status; free preventive care, including colonoscopies for adults over age 50 and mammograms; no more “donut hole” for seniors’ prescriptions, please check this website or check out Landmark: The Inside Story of America's New Health Care Law and What It Means for All of Us (2010), by the staff of the Washington Post or journalist David Nather's book, The New Health Care System: Everything You Need to Know (2010).

Gore Vidal, brilliant, provocative American writer, has died

Gore Vidal, one of America's most prolific, brilliant, and provocative writers of all time, died yesterday at his Hollywood Hills home.

Vidal was an unapologetic aristocrat. The son of an airlines titan and a socialite, the grandson of a United States Senator, and the stepson of Jacqueline Kennedy's stepfather, Vidal attended the exclusive St. Albans School in Washington, D.c. and New Hampshire's Phillips Exeter Academy. It was at the former where he fell in love with Jimmie Trimble (killed in WW II); the romance shaped his powerful coming-out novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), which, although tame by today's standards, created a firestorm in the literary world. At Exeter, his fellow student, John Knowles, later used Vidal as his model for Brinker Hadley, a character in A Separate Peace (1959).

Gore's writing gifts crossed all genres. He penned powerful, widely praised historical novels, including Washington, D.C. (1967) and Burr (1973). He was a consummate playwright and screenplay writer. His adaptation of his own play, The Best Man: A Play about Politics (1960), became a successful movie by the same name in 1964, starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson who played political rivals, vying for the Presidency amidst a dirty, smear-filled campaign.

He won a 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award for The Second American Revolution and Other Essays (1976-1982), a collection of essays. In 2009, the National Book Awards bestowed on him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Twice he ran for political office -- In 1960, Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged him to try for the 29th New York Congressional seat. His platform, tax the rich, won him more Democratic votes in that Republican stronghold than at any other time in the past 50 years, but he lost the race.

Two years later in California, he also lost his bid for a seat in the United States Senate.

His public life was quite colorful. He head-butted author Norman Mailer when both were guests on The Dick Cavett Show. He sued Truman Capote for libel (and won an apology). He and William F. Buckley called each other dreadful names, another argument which was played out in the courts. And he shocked readers with his take on Timothy McVeigh and the September 11th attacks in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be so Hated (2002).

Mr. Vidal, who was 86, died of complications from pneumonia.

Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut, has died

Dr. Sally Ride, a physicist who made history when she answered a 1982 NASA newspaper ad for astronauts, died yesterday in San Diego.

Dr. Ride broke two records with her first of two spaceflights in 1983. Not only was she the first American woman to reach the stars, she was also the youngest astronaut in America's space program to do so.

A brilliant scholar with degrees in physics, astrophysics, and English, Dr. Ride spent her first year at NASA before her 1983 flight aboard the Challenger learning how to fly a jet plane and assisting in the development of a robotic arm. It was inevitable that her historic trip was immortalized by the endless playing of Wilson Pickett's song Mustang Sally, whose chorus consists of the lyrics, "All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride."

Dr. Ride spent another eight days in space in 1984. After her retirement in 1987, she returned to academics and wrote several books for children about science and space, including To Space & Back (1986) and Exploring Our Solar System (2003). She also started a company in 2001, Sally Ride Science, which funneled her deep love and passion for science into programs and training for schools and teachers.

Dr. Ride, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, was 61.

Full Day Kindergarten

Ann Arbor Kindergarteners are going to school for a full day beginning this fall. This means they will have more time for ABCs, 123s, and stories We have fun picture books and informational books for parents, to help your future fulltime Kindergartener get in the mind set!

Bob Babbitt, Funk Brothers bassist, has died

Bob Babbitt rockin' bass player for the Funk Brothers, THE studio band for Motown's heaviest hitters, died Monday In Nashville, TN.

Babbitt moved to Detroit in the 1950s while still in his teens. Then from 1959 until Motown relocated to Los Angeles in 1972, the Funk Brothers backed up every megawatt performer from Stevie Wonder to the Temptations to Marvin Gaye to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, to name just a few.

A 2002 documentary, Standing in the Shadows of Motown brought the Funk Brothers out of obscurity, especially after the group received a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2004 Grammys.

In 2008, the Funk Brothers packed the house at a concert which was part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

Mr. Babbitt, who was 74, died of an inoperable brain tumor.

Kitty Wells, country music's first woman superstar, has died

Kitty Wells, country music's acknowledged first female superstar, died yesterday at her Tennessee home.

Her leap to stardom with the much-loved standard, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, almost didn't happen. She had been singing and perform since 1936, a year before she married her husband of more than 70 years, Johnnie Wright. In 1952, she was on the verge of retiring to become a fulltime wife and mother. But she agreed to record Honky Tonk Angels to collect the union-scale fee.

Angels became an instant hit, despite being initially banned by NBC radio and the Grand Ole Opry (too racy). Not only did the recording top the country charts for six weeks, it also made it onto the pop Top 40, forcing Nashville to rethink its belief that women country singers would not be money makers.

Ms. Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976. Fifteen years later, she became the third country western performer (after Hank Williams and Roy Acuff) to receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Ms. Wells, who was 92, died of complications from a stroke. Her survivors include two children, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.

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