Iconoclastic American author Gore Vidal dead at 86
(Reuters) – Writer Gore Vidal, who filled his novels and essays with acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture while carrying on feuds with big-name literary rivals, died on Tuesday at home in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, age 86.
Vidal’s literary legacy includes a series of historical novels – “Burr,” “1876,” “Lincoln” and “The Golden Age” among them – as well as the campy transsexual comedy “Myra Breckinridge”.
He started writing as a 19-year-old soldier stationed in Alaska, basing “Williwaw” on his World War Two experiences. His third book, “The City and the Pillar,” created a sensation in 1948 because it was one of the first open portrayals of a homosexual main character.
Confirming his death, his official website posted a memoriam with two pictures of Vidal, one as a young military warrant officer during World War Two and another as the iconoclastic writer he would become.
He referred to himself as a “gentleman bitch” and was as egotistical and caustic as he was elegant and brilliant. More…
Wheelchair-bound Israeli army veteran dies after setting himself on fire at welfare protest
JERUSALEM – A second Israeli who set himself on fire in protest at economic difficulties has died of his injuries, the hospital treating him said on Wednesday.
Akiva Mafi, a 45-year-old wheelchair-bound army veteran, doused his body in gasoline and lit it at a bus station on July 22, after what friends described as a debilitating battle for welfare benefits.
He was the second such fatality after Moshe Silman, a debt-ridden member of a grassroots movement to lower the cost of living in Israel, self-immolated during a July 14 demonstration in Tel Aviv and died a week later.
Silman, 57, left a note accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government of “taking from the poor and giving to the rich.” Local media later reported similar suicide bids among others suffering economic hardship. More…
Did the US cause Fallujah’s birth defects?
In November 2004, the US led an assault on Fallujah – a stronghold of opposition against the US occupation, west of Baghdad. Intense bombardment left many of its buildings destroyed and displaced much of the 300,000-strong population.
Eventually, the US was forced to admit that amongst its arsenal was white phosphorus – a substance the Pentagon described as a ‘chemical weapon’ when it was used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.
In addition, eyewitnesses claimed the US military used “unusual weapons”.
Subsequent investigations have focused on the possible use of depleted uranium by the US for its armour-piercing qualities. The US, however, denies using such weaponry.
Research has shown elevated levels of radioactivity in Fallujah and across Iraq.
Iraqi physicians have also long reported a spike in cases involving severe birth defects in Fallujah since 2004. They have reported children born with multiple heads, serious brain damage, missing limbs and with extra fingers and toes.
A report published in 2011 on the level of uranium and other contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital anomalies in Fallujah partly concluded that: “Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except uranium, these findings suggest the enriched uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields.” More…