Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) from New Jersey, has died

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, who was the last living World War II veteran serving in the U.S.Senate as well as its oldest member (he turned 89 in January), died early this morning at a New York Hospital.

Sen. Lautenberg was a first-generation American (his parents were Polish and Russian). He and two childhood friends founded the first automated payroll system in the U.S. (ADP -- Automated Data Processing) which became a worldwide company.

In 1982, Sen. Lautenberg won his first term in the U.S. Senate and retired at the end of 2000. Just two years later, he was drafted by NJ Democrats to save the 2002 Senate race from sinking due to the multi-scandal-ridden career of Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli. He won that election and the election of 2008 with wide margins.

Sen. Lautenberg was one of the most liberal members of the Senate and proud of it. He won successful legislative battles to ban smoking on airplanes and to prevent domestic abusers from owning guns. He tightened the drunk driving laws and was instrumental in getting the drinking age raised to 21. He was one of the most active Senators -- he cast his 9000th vote in in December of 2011.

As his health failed earlier this year, he announced that he would serve out this term and not seek re-election in 2014.

Sen. Lautenberg died of complications stemming from viral pneumonia.

Lynn Rivers Discusses "The End Of The Constitution?"

Monday May 13, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Join us for an evening on engrossing and lively discussion as former Michigan Representative Lynn Rivers presents "The End Of The Constitution?"

For this event, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, Lynn Rivers will discuss issues such as government surveillance and search and seizure under the Patriot Act; detention of Americans without charges as authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act; national security letters, and government infiltration into religious and issue advocacy groups. She will also touch on separation of church and state, separation of powers, the Defense of Marriage Act and gay rights, and how the "parliamentary" behavior of Congress is hobbling the three branch system.

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.

Improved Benefits for Families of Emergency Workers Killed on Duty

A recent change in a federal act fixes coverage gaps and provides a better safety net for families of first responders killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The action closes gaps in the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Act that had left some first responders without benefits. The program started more than 30 years ago to help families of federal, state and local firefighters, police and medics. The new legislation extends the program to private, nonprofit emergency medical services volunteers and personnel. A push for change came following the 2008 line-of-duty death of Cheryl Kiefer, who worked for Jackson Community Ambulance in Michigan, a private nonprofit service. To learn more, visit the website of Huron Valley Ambulance.

Stories From a Diplomat's Jewel Box

Here are just a few of the posts Madeleine Albright has held during her long career in public service: legislative liaison for National Security Council and member of White House staff, 1978-81; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-97; cabinet member and National Security Council member, beginning 1993, and U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001.

Along the way she collected jewelry and her pins became part of her diplomatic signature. A famous example is cited in her book when as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations she criticized Saddam Hussein and was criticized in turn by his poet in residence who called her “an unparalleled serpent.” At an upcoming meeting with Iraqi officials she decided to wear a snake pin to send an unspoken message that originated with the American Revolution slogan "Don’t Tread on Me."

She also sent some kinder messages with her pins, for instance, when she wore her dove pin while with visiting with survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

Ms. Albright wrote a wonderful book about her collection called Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box that is available at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Take the opportunity to see over 200 of her pins at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. The exhibit lasts through April 21st. Stop in and see the pins she collected and used as diplomatic tools throughout her fascinating career.

Watch the Live Broadcast of the Presidential Inauguration

Monday January 21, 2013: Starts @ 11am -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Today at 11am, the Downtown Library is opening up the 4th Floor Meeting Room to present a live televised broadcast of the Presidential Inauguration! The ceremony starts at 11:30am - don't miss the chance to watch this special event live!

Robert Bork, controversial legal scholar, Supreme Court nominee, and judge, has died

Robert Bork, an influential conservative legal presence in American history for many decades, has died.

Bork, a former Marine, segued from an attorney in private practice to a professor at Yale Law School. Some of his notable students were Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, Anita Hill, and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Bork made first headlines on October, 20, 1973. Richard Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, demanded that Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox be fired, triggering the Saturday Night Massacre. Both U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out this order. Bork then immediately became Acting Attorney General and complied with Nixon's order, which was found to be illegal in a lawsuit filed in November by Ralph Nader.

Fourteen years later, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork (who by then was a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.) for a seat on the Supreme Court. The pushback from Senate Democrats was fierce in light of Bork's support for the South's wish to impose poll taxes and for rolling back key aspects of civil rights. His nomination was rejected and Judge Anthony Kennedy won unanimous approval.

Bork then resigned from the Court of Appeals, accepting a position as senior fellow at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He was back in the news for endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for President on August 2, 2011 for the second time (he had also endorsed Romney on December 15, 2007).

Mr. Bork, who was 85, died of heart complications.

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.

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.

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