Margaret Thatcher, England's first woman prime minister, has died

Margaret Thatcher, known as The Iron Lady, for her tough conservative policies implemented during her tenure as Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, has died.

First elected to the House of Parliament in 1959, after years as a tax and patent law barrister, Thatcher's political career as a powerful, extremely conservative Tory leader, led to her election as Prime Minister in 1979. Determined to get Great Britain out of its economic doldrums through her focused steely will (hence the Iron Lady moniker), she used privatization (of Rolls Royce and British Telecom), deregulation, free trade, tax cuts for the rich, and attacks on the unions to push through her policies.

Her popularity was revitalized with the UK's participation in the 1982 Falkland Islands War, as described by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins in their 1983 book, The Battle for the Falklands. This 74-day conflict with Argentina was a successful naval operation.

Thatcher's friendship with President Ronald Reagan was legendary, as they worked together to transform their nations in their shared vision. One of the books she wrote, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, 2002, was dedicated to Reagan.

In her memoir, The Downing Street Years, 1993, Thatcher wrote about her defeat (after three unprecedented terms as Prime Minister) in 1990 to the more moderate conservative beliefs of her successor, John Major.

Baroness Thatcher, who had suffered from dementia for many years, died from a stroke this morning. She was 87.

Roger Ebert, beloved Chicago movie critic, has died

Just one day after announcing he was taking a 'leave of presence' from his 46-year gig as movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and his 31-year career on TV reviewing films, Roger Ebert lost his long public battle with salivary and thyroid cancer.

His announcement yesterday said he would just review the movies HE wanted to see and leave the rest of the reviews to his trusted colleagues at the paper. When he lost part of his jaw and thus his ability to eat or speak, he used his good humor and courage to write about his experience fighting, and often triumphing, against, his devastating illness.

Ebert's long career resulted in a 1975 Pulitzer Prize, the first movie critic to receive this honor. The Webby Awards named him their 2010 Person of the Year. And Hollywood, which lived and died by Ebert's laser-beam ethical demand for excellence in all things film, honored him with his own Walk of Fame star in 2005.

Ebert's career took off in a new direction when he and Chicago Tribune movie critic, Gene Siskel, took their 'point/counterpoint' routine to television in 1975. Originally titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, PBS picked it up and renamed it Sneak Previews three years later. There were two more name-changes: In 1981, it morphed into At the Movies. Five years later, accompanied by their signature 'thumbs up, thumbs down' rating system, it settled on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.

Sadly, Siskel died in 1999. He had had brain surgery for brain cancer but it was complications from another surgery that ended his life.

Despite his long fight with illness, Ebert wrote almost seventeen books on movies, the internet, his life (Life Itself: A Memoir, 2011), and yes, even a cookbook for rice cookers (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker, 2010).

Ebert, who was 70, died today in Chicago.

Irish character actor, Milo O'Shea, has died

Milo O'Shea, an Irish character actor known for his bushy eyebrows and lovely brogue, has died.

Best known in this country for his roles in the campy science fiction film, Barbarella (1968), starring Jane Fonda and the 1982 courtroom thriller, The Verdict, starring Paul Newman, he also enjoyed considerable success in TV. His large body of work included appearances in The Golden Girl, Cheers, Frasier, and in the fifth season of The West Wing, as Chief Justice Roy Ashland.

He also did some stage work, notably performing in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys.

Mr. O'Shea, who was 86, died yesterday in Manhattan.

William Ginsburg, high profile attorney, has died

William Ginsburg, a successful medical malpractice lawyer who had some high profile cases before he shot to the top of the celeb attorney list when he was tapped by Monica Lewinsky's physician father, to represent her in THE political scandal of 1998, died in California on Monday.

Ginsburg won cases for Liberace's doctor who was accused of hiding the performer's cause of death (AIDS) and for the heart doctor who gave the go-ahead for basketball player Hank Gathers,23, to play just days before the Loyola Marymount University star athlete died on the court of a known heart condition. Those wins paled in comparison to the notoriety surrounding his representation of Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who was caught having a consensual affair with then-President Bill Clinton.

No detail was too salacious for gossip-hungry Americans, fed juicy tidbits by a cooperative fourth estate who covered Solicitor General Ken Starr's determination to try Ms. Lewinsky who escaped prosecution but did appear before a grand jury. President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice and later was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999.

Mr. Ginsburg, who was 70, lost his battle with cancer.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award-winning screenwriter and novelist, has died

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-winning screenwriter and much-honored novelist, died today in Manhattan.

Ms. Jhabvala was born in Germany to Jewish parents who fled to England in 1939. In 1951, Ms. Jhabvala married an Indian architect. They lived in New Delhi for a quarter of century, an experience which informed much of her examination of the privileged lifestyle of the British upperclass in India.

In the early 1960s, she was discovered by filmdom's producer/director power team, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. They had read her 1963 novel, Householder (on order) and asked her to write the screenplay for the film (on order) by the same name which was released later that year.

Thus began a long successful partnership. The Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala 22-film collaboration resulted in two Oscars for Ms. Jhabvala -- A Room with a View (1986) and Howards End (1993).

Ms. Jhabvala was also feted with many literary awards, as well. In 1975, she won the then-called Booker McConnell Prize for Fiction (now known as the Man Booker Prize) for Heat and Dust. In 1984, she was tapped for one of the much-coveted MacArthur Foundation fellowships.

Ms. Jhabvala's last novel, My Nine Lives was published in 2004. Her final book, a collection of short stories, A Lovesong for India came out two years ago. Her very last piece of published writing appeared in the March 25, 2013 edition of The New Yorker. It is a short story called The Judge's Will.

Ms. Jhabvala, who was85, died of an unspecified pulmonary ailment.

Ann Arbor ranks in the top 10 of Well-Being Cities study

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted a survey between January 2 and December 29 of last year. In the list of Top 10 Metro Areas with Best Overall Well-Being, Ann Arbor was number 8.

And it gets even better. When residents were asked questions about six categories -- Life evaluation, Emotional Health, Work Environment, Physical Health, Healthy Behaviors, and Access to Basic Necessities -- Ann Arbor was #1 (just as it was in 2011) in Life Evaluation (a category that asked participants if they felt they were thriving, struggling, or suffering. Ann Arbor showed improvement over 2011 in their ranking in Basic Access (in 2011, AA was #7; last year, AA was #5).

Ann Arbor lost ground in Emotional Health (in 2011, the score was 13; last year, that number plummeted to 77). There was a dip in perceived Physical Health (2011=12; 2012=21) and Healthy Behavior (2011=36; 2012=54). Area employers may want to pay attention to the change in Ann Arbor's Work Environment score (2011=64; 2012=100).

Two other Michigan cities got good news in this survey.Holland and Grand Haven scored the highest in the Basic Access category.

The complete report can be found here.

A Movie in the Making - Divergent

Veronica Roth says, "Okay, so you may have seen/heard rumors of this already, so it's not exactly new news, but it is Officially Official, which means that I can tell you my thoughts. KATE WINSLET has been cast as Jeanine Matthews! What can I say? When I found out, I was floored. I grew up watching Kate Winslet in movies, whether it was Titanic or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Reader, and she is an incredible actress, and I am sure that she will be extraordinary as Jeanine. I'm excited to see the complexity and depth she'll bring to the role."

The film is now in pre-production, and will be coming to theaters sometime in 2014. But you can read the book and it's sequel, Insurgent, now. Roth is in the process of writing the as-yet-untitled third book in the series, which will be published October 22, 2013.

Ann Arbor Observer: Meet Jacqui Robbins

The March issue of the Ann Arbor Observer has a particularly good article about Jacqui Robbins, who is a writer, director and teacher in Ann Arbor. This article profiles Robbins, author of the children's books The New Girl. . . .And Me, and Two of a Kind. She also has a piece in the new book Dare to Dream - Change the World, a poetry collection inspired by coverage of the 2011 uprising in Egypt. Around Ann Arbor, Robbins is active in many community organizations including 826 Michigan, where she is president of the board.

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Ed "Hizzoner" Koch, former mayor of New York City, has died

Ed Koch, whose highest-profile job as three-term mayor of New York City made him a national figure, died early this morning at New York-Presbyterian Columbia Hospital.

After serving in the Army during WW II, Koch began his political career in 1952 campaigning for Adlai Stevenson who lost the run for president to Dwight Eisenhower. Koch was elected five times to the U.S. House of Representatives, beginning in 1969. During his fifth term, he ran for Mayor of New York City, beating in the primary such Democratic heavyweights as Bella Abzug, Mario Cuomo, and Abe Beame, New York City's first Jewish Mayor (1974-1978). Koch won his first of three mayoral terms in the 1977 general election against three opponents.

Koch's first two terms as mayor were very successful. His feisty personality, blunt talk, and political savvy brought NYC out of bankruptcy and made great strides in cleaning up the City, adding 200,000 housing units and drastically reducing the number of abandoned buildings. The start of his third term was marred by a stunning number of scandals involving key City leaders and the tanking of the stock market in 1987.

After his career as Mayor, Koch immediately launched himself into a dozen new directions. He wrote 17 books, including his 2000 I'm Not Done Yet: Keeping at It, Remaining Relevant, and Having the Time of My Life. He was a popular talk radio show contributor, a TV and silver screen actor (The Muppets Take Manhattan (2011) and The First Wives Club (1998)), a columnist and critic (film and restaurant) for several print venues, and lecturer.

Due to his failing health, he missed the Tuesday night premiere of Neil Barsky's documentary, Koch.

Mr. Koch, who died of congestive heart failure, was 88.

Rose Martin, champion of Ann Arbor's low income citizens, has died

Rose Martin, co-founder and director of Ann Arbor's Peace Neighborhood Center, died yesterday.

PNC was established in 1971 to provide a safe environment for residents of the diverse West Side to get together to solve problems. Co-operation between Peace Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, and Zion Lutheran Churches made possible the Center at 1111 North Maple Road. Five years later, Ms. Martin became its Executive Director, a position she held for 30 years. Over the years she expanded its services to include working to end violence and drug abuse through educational and economic initiatives.

In 2001, Ann Arbor's Nonprofit Enterprise at Work awarded PNC its Prize for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.

A year later, Ms. Martin published her autobiography, One Rose Blooming: Hard-Earned Lessons about Kids, Race, and Life in America. Former Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon wrote of this book: "It grabbed my heart and forced me to evaluate myself. A fantastic book from a visionary community leader."

When she retired, Ms. Martin went right back to work. She opened Rose's Good Company whose clientele, according to RGC's mission statement is to "...serve individuals and families who have lost hope." The organization's focus is on the unemployed, the homeless, dependent children, ex-convicts and recovering addicts.

Ms. Martin, who was 70, died at a local restaurant of cardiac arrest.

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